(Reuters) – China has agreed to lift its ban on Irish beef, Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Friday, making it the only European country to be allowed to export beef to both the United States and China.
Ireland last month became the first European Union country to regain access to the lucrative U.S. market, 17 years after Washington banned EU imports over the mad cow disease, or BSE, epidemic that spread from Britain to mainland Europe.
“I’m delighted to announce this evening that we have now reached agreement with China on lifting the ban on Irish beef,” Kenny told his Fine Gael party’s annual conference, in a speech pitched at struggling rural Ireland, just a year out from parliamentary elections.
Demand for red meat in China, the world’s second-largest economy, has risen strongly in recent years due to rising incomes and a richer diet. Beijing started inspections of meat export facilities in Ireland in December as Dublin bid for the ban to be lifted.
Only a few countries, such as Australia, Argentina, Canada and New Zealand, have had access to the Chinese market. China also banned beef imports from European countries following the BSE outbreak.
Ireland, whose food exports to China have more than doubled to 620 million euros since 2011, said Chinese veterinary inspectors would begin to approve processing plants for export following the formal lifting of the ban.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by David Holmes)