A decade ago, Ireland was one of the top-selling countries in the world for agricultural products, with the country boasting the second-largest farm workforce in Europe.
Now, it has been hit by a record amount of Chinese imports.
In 2018, the Irish economy accounted for almost half the Chinese imports to the country.
As a result, the Government announced in 2018 that it was ending its import restrictions on Chinese goods.
This was a big relief to Irish farmers, who were desperate to find a solution to their growing surplus.
Irish agronomists had been looking for a way to keep prices low, but had been unable to find one.
“In the past, it was the Chinese, who made the money, that had been buying into Ireland, and now they were the ones buying our products,” said Ann Patience, co-director of the Irish Agriculture Council.
A deal in principle was announced last November, but the two sides had been at loggerheads over some of the terms, which were then agreed in November. “
It’s a pity that we couldn’t come up with one.”
A deal in principle was announced last November, but the two sides had been at loggerheads over some of the terms, which were then agreed in November.
“We were in talks about how much we wanted, how much the Chinese would be willing to pay and we were negotiating over the final details of the deal,” said Patience.
The Irish Government is expected to sign a deal with the Chinese in March 2019, which will bring the two countries together for the first time since the Brexit vote.
A major economic impact of the China deal will be a rise in Irish exports to China, which had dropped from $12 billion in 2016 to $7.5 billion in 2020.
“The Chinese are the biggest export market for Ireland, which is a major export market to China,” Patience said.
“And we’re expecting to see a rise of $2 billion [in 2019] to $2.5 million [in 2020].”
But the Irish Government has already warned that a Brexit outcome could see the sector shrink by about 20 per cent in 2020, a blow to Ireland’s tourism industry.
“There is a huge amount of uncertainty, uncertainty over the Brexit result and uncertainty about the trade deal,” Patiences said.
In 2017, Irish exports fell $2 million, or 3 per cent, to $5.5bn, and imports grew $1.7 million, a decline of 14 per cent.
“With a Brexit, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what happens to Irish businesses going forward,” she said.
The latest trade agreement with China is the latest in a series of bilateral agreements between Ireland and China.
It comes as Ireland continues to suffer a severe shortage of wheat, the main ingredient of bread.
“Our wheat stocks are down from a year ago,” Patients said.
Patience and her husband have been trying to help farmers in the fields of Cavan, which relies heavily on imports of wheat.
“My husband is a farmer in Cavan.
He makes about $600 a week and he has two children, one of whom is 6 years old,” she explained.
“But it’s really hard for him to get any more wheat because it’s too expensive. “
We’re trying to get him the cheapest price possible and I think that will be the best thing for him.””
But it’s really hard for him to get any more wheat because it’s too expensive.
We’re trying to get him the cheapest price possible and I think that will be the best thing for him.”