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Bord Bia welcome significant advances in gaining Irish sheepmeat access to China

Date: 18/09/2021

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine today confirmed Minister McConalogue and Minister NI of the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) have signed and exchanged formal protocols that will pave the way for the export of sheepmeat and breeding pigs from Ireland to China.

 Welcoming the announcement, Bord Bia’s Chief Executive Tara McCarthy said: “Bord Bia has been preparing for market access for Irish sheepmeat over a number of years and are very pleased with today’s announcement. We have a clear strategy developed for Irish sheepmeat in China and are ready to hit the ground running, leveraging strategic partnerships with key customers. Our focus will be on raising awareness of Irish sheepmeat through foodservice focused events, targeting influential chefs and trade customers. While imports are currently dominated by two main competitors, we are confident that Irish sheepmeat can carve out a niche and premium market in China.”

China has a considerable sheepmeat import requirement with 365,000 tonnes imported in 2020, valued at over $1.74 billion. Currently, imports account for 8% of total sheepmeat consumption in China. The two largest suppliers, New Zealand and Australia, represent 97% of all imports in volume terms (New Zealand 55%; Australia 42%. Source: Global trade atlas data for 2020).


Bord Bia China Manager, Conor O’Sullivan commented: “The consistent growth in Chinese import demand represents a positive platform for Irish sheepmeat as it prepares to enter the market. The premiumisation of China’s retail and foodservice sectors has transformed China from a market for cheap cuts to one with opportunity for every cut of sheepmeat.”

Sheepmeat accounts for 6% of Chinese meat consumption at 3.8kg per person per annum. While 65% of sheepmeat consumption is through foodservice – typically enjoyed in hotpots and stews, or barbecued – at home consumption is rising as consumers become more familiar with how to cook lamb. Out-of-home consumption is significantly higher in urban areas with growing affluent populations, where imported meat is more likely to be consumed.

In November, Bord Bia, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will be hosting a series of lamb focused meetings with key trade buyers and importers.

Bord Bia’s strategy for sheepmeat in China will be focussed on restaurant and foodservice business, with events to include trade seminars and trade shows, chef demonstrations, and a chef’s master series. Consumer promotions will be focused on e-commerce via promotions and partnerships with websites such as JD.com, Tmall, and Pinduoduo. Just over half of all Chinese retail sales occur online, making China the largest e-commerce market in the world.

Notes to editors:

  • China accounts for 38% of global sheepmeat import market.
  • From January to July, sheepmeat imports in China increased by 13% to 274,000 tonnes.
  • 84% of imports were bone-in, 9% were carcass and 7% were boneless. 99.8% of imports are frozen.
  • Domestic production accounted for 4.92 million tonnes last year, an increase of 0.5% on the previous year.
  • Average prices for imported sheepmeat in China have more than doubled over the last decade (rising from $2.09/kg in 2009 to $4.78/kg in 2020). Import prices in 2021 averaged $5.50/kg in H1 2021, a record high