Chinese firms urged to look to Ireland for golden ticket
Ireland is the perfect gateway for Chinese businesses to gain access to the lucrative EU market, the president of that country's largest meat company told a group of its leading businessmen.
Zhu Yicai - president of the Yurun Group, the largest meat processor in China - urged other entrepreneurs from the wealthy province of Jiangsu to establish bases in Ireland. He told them it was cheaper to do business there than in most other European states.
His firm kills almost one billion chickens and ducks annually, as well as 30 million pigs. It has a turnover of more than €11bn (£9m).
The company already does business with a number of Irish firms, including the country's biggest pig processor, Rosderra.
Mr Yicai - who is listed by Forbes Magazine as the 39th richest person in China, with a fortune of close to €1.4bn (£1.1bn) - told delegates at the reception for business leaders from the city of Nanjing that he had been "hugely impressed" when he visited Ireland last year.
Describing the country as "beautiful", he said it was renowned for the quality of the environment and its high standards of food production.
The business leader, who is chairman of the Nanjing Chamber of Commerce, was speaking at a reception for local business people and a travelling delegation of Irish food companies that is being led by the Republic's Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
Jiangsu is among the wealthiest provinces in China, with an average per capita income of $9,800 (£6,108) - almost double the Chinese national average.
The province of 78m people is also home to 125 of the country's top 500 companies and is viewed as a powerhouse of China's economy.
Mr Yicai urged Irish companies to use the dinner to build business contacts with their hosts, telling them: "You cannot miss this chance."
Reacting to the comments, Mr Coveney said that since his visit to Ireland, Mr Yicai had become a real "advocate for Ireland".
He said that the feeling he got in Nanjing from the region's political and business leaders was that they wanted to "twin" with Ireland.
The minister confirmed that officials from the Nanjing area intended to visit Ireland later this year in order to advance practical co-operation and to assist in the development of stronger links with Ireland.
Later in the day, Mr Coveney was invited to address students at Nanjing Agricultural University, where he outlined Ireland's contribution to the future of sustainable agriculture in the context of the major global challenges of food security and climate change.
He told students that as an export and market-orientated industry with high standards of food safety and quality, the agri-food industry in Ireland had an important role to play in contributing to the international security of food supply for the millions of people beyond our shores.
He added: "It is in the area of sustainable agricultural production that Ireland may be able to share its experience and expertise with China."