Eastern promise as exports to China jump 60% since 2011
Economic relations between Northern Ireland and China are "in a golden age" with manufacturing exports of £95.5m now making their way east.
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell, who was speaking at the China Healthcare and Life Sciences Roadshow in Belfast, said our exports to China had grown by nearly 60% in four years, from £60.3m in 2010-11.
The minister said the growth was due to inroads into the market made by companies like aircraft interiors firm B/E Aerospace, red meat firm Dunbia and tyre pressure monitoring systems firm Schrader.
Mr Bell said: "This proves that there is a definite appetite for Western goods and services that Northern Ireland companies are successfully filling."
Machinery took up the biggest share of exports in 2014-15, according to Invest NI, accounting for £28.1m.
But food is a growing export area with exports of £5m in 2014-15. Elmgrove Foods, which is part of Dunbia, has been successfully exporting the 'fifth quarter' of animals to China to satisfy the territory's appetite for offal pieces such as pigs' trotters.
The China Healthcare and Life Sciences Roadshow was hosted by Invest NI, the China-Britain Business Council and UK Trade & Investment.
Medical diagnostics firm Randox said it had been exporting to China since 1992, and now employs 12 people in Beijing and Shanghai.
David Hunter, Randox China sales manager, said: "Randox has been exporting to the health sector in China for more than 20 years. We recognised the importance of this emerging economy in the early 1990s and since then we have worked to establish a substantial market share, particularly for our quality control products.
"Our significant experience in China has allowed us to develop a real understanding of the life sciences and healthcare landscape. We are active in 28 provinces and in 24 of these, we are the main supplier of quality control products to the state's centres for clinical laboratories.
"We are now growing our footprint by targeting the thriving hospital sector, with staff on the ground educating laboratory scientists and clinicians about the importance of using Randox products to provide the most accurate test results for patients."
Jonathan Bell said it was the perfect time to host the roadshow "as we are now in what is being labelled as the 'golden age' in UK-China relations".
He added: "As well as a driven manufacturing sector, Northern Ireland has a vibrant local healthcare and life sciences sector which is research-intensive, innovative and highly diverse and I am proud to say that it is amongst the most technologically advanced in the global marketplace."