Sunday 23 September 2018

Boost to agri-sector as Chinese premier comes on two day visit to Ireland

Shannon Group CEO Neil Pakey greets Chinese Premier, Li Kegiang on his arrival of Shannon Airport
Shannon Group CEO Neil Pakey greets Chinese Premier, Li Kegiang on his arrival of Shannon Airport
Chinese Premier, Li Kegiang accompanied by his wife Professor Cheng Hong pictured on their arrival at Shannon Airport

TIES between Ireland and China have been strengthened during a two-day trip by Chinese Premier Li Keqiant to Ireland which saw two agreements on a visa waiver scheme and deepening agricultural cooperation.

Premier Li was accompanied by his wife, Prof Cheng Hong, and a number of Ministers on the trip, which also saw him visit a family farm in Mayo to experience first hand the unique characteristics of Ireland’s grass-based beef and dairy production systems.

The visit follows the lifting of the ban on Irish beef exports in February, paving the way for exporting Irish produce to a rapidly growing Chinese market. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he hoped Irish beef could be on sale in China by the end of the year.

During the visit two agreements were signed following bilateral talks at Ashford Castle.

The visa agreement means holders of diplomatic passports of both countries will be exempt from visa requirements for visits of up to 90 days to the other country.

Official passport holders who travel in the company of a minister on official visits of this short-term duration will also be visa-exempt.

The second agreement for greater agricultural cooperation will see the two countries discuss a range of agri food and market-access issues. Irish agri-food exports to China increased to €620m last year, making it Ireland’s second most important market after the EU.

A visit to a third generation family farm in Headford proved the highlight of the trip.

After a tour of the farm, the group happily went to a newly erected marquee where the flying footwork of some of the country’s best Irish dancers had the guests clapping enthusiastically. So taken were the couple with the performance that Premier Li informed current world Irish dance champion Colm Conneely (18) he was welcome to perform in China any time.

The premier and his wife were then taken for a private cup of tea in the farmhouse with hosts Cathal and Mary Garvey and their six children. The youngest child, Donal (6) was the apple of their eye, especially when he tried out his recently acquired Chinese.

“I know ‘shi shi’ and ‘ni hao’. That means ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’. They liked that,” he said.

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