Northern Ireland agri-food is competing and succeeding on the global stage, according to DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen who has just completed a successful agri-food trade mission to China during which she visited the cities of Beijing, Yangling, Xi’an and Shanghai.
The Minister fulfilled a busy schedule of engagements during the week-long mission, including attending the major Food Hotel China exhibition and meetings with Chinese Government and international trade representatives.
Speaking as she began the journey back to Northern Ireland, Miss McIlveen said: “The trade and cultural links between Northern Ireland and the People’s Republic of China are strong and growing, and this has been evident throughout my visit.
“Food Hotel China, held in Shanghai for the 20th time, is the proven platform for international food producers to gain a foothold in the Chinese market and the Northern Ireland companies attending and exhibiting certainly made a positive impression. With support from Invest Northern Ireland, local producers covering areas such as beverages, bakery, potatoes and rapeseed oil made high value initial contacts with potential Chinese buyers.
“There is no doubt that the Chinese market represents a major opportunity for local producers, many of whom are already doing significant business in China. I am committed to doing whatever I can to help boost existing trade links and establish new ones for Northern Ireland companies.
“I had the pleasure of speaking at the opening ceremony of the event, and subsequently also at an associated special reception hosted by Invest NI, attended by local companies, consular staff, Chinese buyers and other guests. I addressed an engaged and interested audience that was keen to hear about Northern Ireland and its high quality agri-food sector.”
Having already held private formal meetings with the Governor of Shaanxi Province, Mr Hu Heping, and with Director Generals from the central Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Science and Technology, the Minister went on to meet the Defra Agricultural Counsellor for China, Karen Morgan, in Shanghai.
Miss McIlveen said: “My officials in DAERA and colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive’s Bureau in China maintain frequent and close contact with DEFRA officials who are responsible for opening new markets in China. I very much valued the opportunity to meet DEFRA officials and discuss face-to-face matters of mutual interest in agri-food exports and how we can work together to maximise the opportunities presented by the Chinese market.”
The Minister concluded: “I have greatly enjoyed representing Northern Ireland agri-food during my time in China and working to raise the profile of local food producers. It has been clear to me from the formal and informal meetings I have had over the past week that the Chinese regard our produce, with its traceability and unique provenance, very highly.
“I am confident that my visit has helped to boost Northern Ireland’s image in China and I look forward to the local agri-food sector continuing to build on its success here to date. My thanks go to the Northern Ireland Executive’s Bureau in China and to Invest Northern Ireland for their assistance in working with DAERA officials to arrange my participation in the events in China – their hard work will deliver real and lasting benefits for local food companies and I look forward to following up with important contacts over the coming months.”