After two and a half years of refusing to accept Irish beef because of BSE fears, Chinese authorities have lifted their ban, allowing for the resumption of Irish beef exports to the world's most populous country.

Beef shipments to China were suspended in May 2020 when a case of atypical BSE was detected in a cow through the Department of Agricultures own BSE surveillance programme.

Negotiations with Chinese authorities at political and official level had been ongoing throughout the suspension period, and were finalised in recent days.

Irish beef exports to China were worth nearly €100m per annum before the suspension.

Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has welcomed the news, saying it is a "great vote of confidence in our beef sector".

"I look forward to seeing access to the Chinese market grow in the time ahead to reward the efforts of everyone involved," Mr McConalogue added.

Irish beef exports to China began in 2018, and had been growing strongly when the BSE case was discovered on a farm in Co Tipperary.

Beef exports to China were immediately suspended following the discovery, in line with the sanitary agreement governing the trade with Ireland.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a neurological disease in cattle, most often caused by contaminated feed.

Atypical BSE cases can occur naturally in all cattle populations however, and has only been identified in older animals.

The 2020 Tipperary case occurred in a 14-year-old cow.