The major dairy processing co-operative, Lakeland Dairies has been exporting value-added dairy products to China for the past four years and is continuing to look for new opportunities in the Chinese market, CEO Michael Hanley told the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland Jianguo Xu as they talked over a dessert of Lakeland Dairies ice cream during the Ireland China Business Conference hosted by Cavan Chamber of Commerce.
Lakeland collects and processes milk from dairy farms throughout the northern region of Ireland.
Hanley said that Irish dairy exports to China have increased from €50 million in 2011 to over €170 million last year. As incomes in China increase, the market for imported food is expected to continue to grow in the region of 17% annually. With a population of 1.3 Billion people, it is currently the world’s second largest economy and is predicted to overtake the US as the largest economy during the current decade.
Addressing the meeting, Ambassador Jianguo Xu expressed his “delight and pleasure” that Lakeland Dairies and other Irish food companies would be participating in a forthcoming Trade Mission to China, which will be led by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney in November, visiting some of the country’s largest cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.
The Ambassador also warmly recalled the visit to Ireland in 2012 of the now President of China, Xi Jingping and said that, together with a return visit by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, this had created “great and lasting goodwill” between China and Ireland. During Mr. Xi’s visit, representatives of the Chinese media had also visited Lakeland Dairies plants where they saw very high standards of excellence in milk quality and dairy production.
Mr. Hanley said that China and wider Asia are importing increasing volumes of dairy from across the globe and that this will continue for the foreseeable future.
“Some estimates indicate that the gap between supply and demand in China is in excess of 10 Billion litres equivalent of milk products which they require annually and this is widening. They will be one of the key drivers of global dairy consumption growth over the next decade.
“China is a very complex market and a heavily regulated environment with very strict customs and quality checks. However, I am confident from our experience to date that there is further major potential for Irish dairy exports to China and Lakeland Dairies is exploring these opportunities.
“We have made significant investments in capacity including manufacturing facilities to cater for the processing needs of our milk producers after quotas are abolished in 2015. We are currently commissioning a major new global logistics centre which will underpin our international distribution capacity where we currently export close to 100% of all locally produced milk to over 70 countries worldwide in the form of value-added dairy products and food ingredients.”
Mr. Hanley expressed appreciation to Ambassador Xu for his work in fostering stronger trade links between Ireland and China.
“The Ambassador and his commercial department are very well informed of food industry developments in Ireland. I urged him to keep promoting Irish dairy foods in China where there is a growing and ready supply of naturally produced, high quality dairy products available from Ireland and particularly from our co-operative farmers throughout the Lakeland milk producing region”.
Lakeland Dairies operates across fifteen counties, on a cross border basis, annually processing over 700 million litres of locally produced milk into a range of value-added dairy food ingredients and foodservice products which are exported globally.