Minister hails success of visit

Minister O'Neill is pictured visiting a dairy farm near Beijing during her recent trip.
Minister O'Neill is pictured visiting a dairy farm near Beijing during her recent trip.

Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill has hailed her visit to China a success.

Mrs O’Neill returned from China yesterday following a series of meetings with key government officials to discuss and progress a range of issues for the agricultural sector of Northern Ireland.

The minister outlined the progress she has achieved on the negotiations with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) to approve the export of pork from Northern Ireland to China.

“I held positive and constructive discussions with AQSIQ to thank them for their recent inspection visits to the north and to maintain momentum on the approval process,” she explained.

“I conveyed the importance the pork producers of the north place on accessing the Chinese market for their traceable, safe, wholesome and high quality produce. AQSIQ confirmed that they were impressed by our standards of pork production and that they would work hard to complete our report very soon. They also thanked me for coming to meet them in Beijing.”

Following the meeting with AQSIQ, Minister O’Neill held discussions with key agricultural figures based in Beijing including the vice-president of the Chinese Agricultural University and representatives from Chinese industry.

“While my overarching strategic objective is to enhance the north of Ireland-China relationship by fostering opportunities for gain for the North in the agri-product and agri-food sector, I welcomed this opportunity to develop contacts with senior CAU academics who have influence in the spheres of agriculture, science and agricultural education,” she said.

“Such linkages will work to facilitate the exchange of scientific knowledge and education which will deepen bonds and deliver real results for the people of China and the north of Ireland. I also met with COFCO, China’s largest food wholesaler and a major importer of meat and dairy products to underline our high standards and discuss the priorities of local industry in the north for accessing the Chinese market.”

Minister O’Neill also took time out of her busy schedule to visit a dairy farm and discussed mutual areas of interest with Chinese industry representatives.

Mrs O’Neill went on to thank the Director and the staff of the NI Bureau in Beijing for facilitating this successful mission. On her third visit to China since 2012, she also stressed the importance of face-to-face engagement by the Executive and it’s Ministers in enhancing relationships with key players in this growing marketplace.

Meanwhile, Red meat processor Dunbia has welcomed Minister Michelle O’Neill’s visit to China.

Dunbia has been a leading advocate for securing the lucrative Chinese export market for Northern Ireland’s Agri-Food industry.

“There has been a concerted effort by government and industry to secure the opening of the Chinese market for the Northern Ireland pork industry through building relationships and working through the bureaucratic process,” commented Mr Jack Dobson Executive Director Dunbia.

“At Dunbia, we have attended trade missions to China with Invest NI and DEFRA and we recently welcomed inspectors to our Ballymena facility where they conducted an audit for AQSIQ, China’s government department with responsibility for quality and food inspection.”

He added: “It is vital that we keep the momentum going which is why Minster O’Neill’s current visit to China is so important.”