Ireland coupling with China’s beef train at just the right time
Top meat industry official says demand for beef will only get stronger as incomes rise.
If the average Chinese person increases their meat intake by 50g a day – the equivalent of a modest-sized hamburger – the country will need to bolster supply by 24 million tonnes a year.
It might sound like an arbitrary metric but it’s one Beijing authorities use to forecast the country’s future meat requirements, according to Chen Wei, vice-president of the China Meat Association.
When you consider Ireland’s entire meat exports last year, excluding fish, amounted to 870,000 tonnes, the scale and potential of the Chinese market is more apparent.
With greater levels of disposable income than ever before, many Chinese have turned away from their traditional diet of rice and vegetables to embrace Western diets and fast food, of which beef is a central part.
Mr Wei says the recent decision to grant Ireland access to China’s beef market was simply down to supply and demand. China’s beef industry can no longer satisfy domestic demand, he says, which has quadrupled in less than three decades in tandem with the country’s GDP.
The problem of supply is further aggravated by relatively lengthy production times, increased pressure on land and the government’s new policy of turning pasture land over to forests in an effort to stem the country’s growing environmental crisis.
The industry is now in a process of “outsourcing” a portion of its meat requirements, Mr Wei says, hence the decision to grant Ireland access.
He believes demand for beef imports will grow strongly for years and that Ireland has arrived “at the best time” to take advantage. He says Ireland has a reputation in China as a high-end producer.