O’Neill outlines key objectives of visit to China

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -  23rd December 2014 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. 'Michelle O'Neill with other Sinn Fein leaders during a press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont after todays Northern Ireland talks concluded.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 23rd December 2014 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. 'Michelle O'Neill with other Sinn Fein leaders during a press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont after todays Northern Ireland talks concluded.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill leaves for Beijing today on a mission to support applications for the export of pork to China and to champion Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry.

Speaking ahead of her departure, the Minister said: “China is a vital market for our exports. It is expected to become the world’s leading consumer of pigmeat on a per capita basis, surpassing the European Union, by 2022.

“I am committed to helping our pork industry gain a market share of this lucrative market and that is why it is important for me meet Chinese officials to progress these negotiations on behalf of our pork processors and coldstores. I welcomed the two inspection team audits of our pork processors in April which represented a significant milestone in the approval process.”

During the course of her week-long visit, Minister O’Neill will meet with China’s department with responsibility for quality and food inspection, AQSIQ, with whom she will discuss pork exports. She will also meet with a range of partners in Beijing to seek their support in promoting Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry with the Chinese authorities. These include the influential state bodies with responsibility for the regulation of food and drug safety (CFDA) and for the import/export of food (COFCO). She will also meet the EU Ambassador to China as well as leaders in some of Beijing’s main agricultural universities.

The Minister will also take the opportunity to visit a farm in China to enhance her understanding of the development of agriculture in China and its government’s priorities for the sector.   

She continued: “I will use the opportunity to build on the important relationships established to date by thanking the Chinese authorities in person for visiting the north. I am hopeful my visit will maintain momentum on the approval process. While I am pleased we already export dairy products and cattle hides to China, I also remain focused on agreeing future access for beef and chicken. I look forward to a positive outcome for our industry.”

While in China, the Minister will continue to build on the relationships made during her visits to Beijing and Shanghai in 2012 and 2013 when she promoted the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.

The Minister added: “In addition to my market access negotiations, I also hope to continue to develop the close working relationship between the north and China in terms of the agricultural, technical, scientific and educational exchanges which are valued by both sides. It is my ambition that deeper relations with our Chinese partners will deliver benefits for a range of agricultural and rural interests in the north.”

Minister O’Neill will visit China from 1-5 June 2015. During a busy itinerary, she is also scheduled to meet with Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS), Chinese Agricultural University (CAU), China national Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Organisation (COFCO), Chinese Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), and Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC).