Irish beef exports to China are set to grow more than ten-fold in the next year, according to figures seen by RTÉ News.

The Bord Bia and Department of Agriculture predictions suggest that beef exports of €9 million last year will grow to €120m by the end of 2020.

Ireland only started exporting beef to China for the first time just over a year-and-a-half ago and demand is said to have far outstripped expectation.

The growth will see China become one of the most significant export outlets for Irish beef.

Chinese demand for beef is rising by the year.

Its one billion consumers have developed an appetite for beef and the outbreak of African Swine Fever there has wiped out hundreds of millions of pigs, increasing demand for pig meat and beef as important sources of animal protein.

The revelations on the boom in demand come as Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed leads a Bord Bia delegation in Shanghai and Beijing where Irish meat processors are marketing their Irish produce. 

Bord Bia Chief Executive Tara McCarthy described the Chinese marked as "immense" and said the growth in demand there is "constant".

She said the import requirement of China for beef has doubled in two years.

She said Bord Bia was working "to position Irish beef well in the Chinese market, differentiating it by selling its sustainability credentials, its natural grass fed credentials, its quality assurance and most importantly its safety".

Read more: China publishes list of Irish meat plants approved for export

Mr Creed said that the Chinese market was a significant opportunity to grow volume and add value for Irish exporters.

He said "that gives us the best opportunity to deliver back to the farmer, the primary producer, therefore the diversification of the market is essential to serve the farmer best".

Responding to concerns about the environmental impact of exporting Irish beef to China, Mr Creed said, "we are putting a big effort into driving down the carbon footprint of all of our offerings in the international market place".

He said: "The transport element of the whole life cycle of beef production is but one percent of the total carbon footprint", adding, "we are concentrated on driving down the carbon footprint on every step of the production cycle".