THE impact of the falling birth rate in China on the infant milk formula industry in Ireland was raised in the Dáil.
Ireland is one of the leading manufacturers of infant formula. Three of the world’s largest producers, Danone, Abbott, and Wyeth, have manufacturing plants here.
Minister of State Neale Richmond, replying to Cork North-West Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan, said his officials had informed him that China reported in January that its population had fallen for the first time in 60 years.
China’s strict one-child policy, which was implemented from 1980 to 2015 to respond to high levels of population growth, had been indicated as a reason for the decline.
Minister Richmond said the fall in the birth rate, whilst significant, is only one factor impacting the supply of international infant formula brands into China.
The others include the introduction of complex national operating standards coupled with intense competition from domestic Chinese infant formula manufacturers.
These have regained consumers’ trust and have significantly inhibited international companies to service the market. These brands have rapidly gained market share in recent years.
“This compares to a substantial fall in market share for imported brands such as Danone, Nestle, and Abbott,” he said.
Minister Richmond said 2022 Bord Bia analysis concluded that a strong market for premium-grade infant formula remains in China for Irish suppliers, both as an ingredient as well as finished product.
“However, manufacturers will need more in-depth customer engagement with stronger scientific proof points to serve a changing and more informed customer segment,” he said.
Tipperary Independent TD Michael Lowry also recently asked Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue in the Dáil to outline engagements he or his officials have had with the relevant Algerian ministry regarding plans for an agreement between the countries for dairy and infant formula.
The Minister said Ireland already has an existing sanitary agreement for dairy and related products with Algeria.
Representations were made to Algeria by the Department in relation to market access. There has been ongoing communication with Infant formula companies.
The Department sought clarifications in an official letter to the Algerian Government on February 1 relating to market access requirements. To date, there has been no response to these queries.
As a result, it has made representations to the Embassy of Ireland to Algeria and to the Algerian Embassy in Ireland to engage directly with the Algerian authorities, on behalf of the Department.
“A response from the Algerian authorities is awaited, and this will determine next steps. Ultimately it is the competent authority in the importing country who will set the timelines for authorisation to import,” he said.
Source : Irish examiner May 20th 2023