Exports of Irish beef to Egypt are to resume after a near 17-year gap, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.
Five Irish plants have been approved to commence exports to the country shortly following an agreement reached between Egyptian authorities and the department. The deal also includes approval for exports of beef offals and for some types of sheepmeat products
The announcement follows on from the opening of the market to live Irish cattle last February, after an inspection visit by the Egyptian ministry of agriculture to the Republic.
Egypt is the largest consumer market in the Middle East and North Africa with 95 million people. It is the third biggest destination for Irish agri-food products to Africa with exports of €45 million in 2015, of which €30.5 million was for dairy products, and €11 million for seafood.
A ban on exports of beef from Europe resulting from the BSE crisis was imposed by Egyptian authorities in the late 1990s, with the last exports being sent from Ireland the following year.
Prior to the ban, Ireland’s beef trade with Egypt was worth about IR£200 million (€254 million) with 157,000 tonnes of beef exported in 1999.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed welcomed the new agreement.
“I am delighted to see the Egyptian market reopened for Irish beef once again given the size of the potential market there. We know that prior to their ban on EU beef in the late 1990s it was one of the largest markets for Irish beef at the time,” he said.
Mr Creed said 2015 was was a great success in terms of beef market access with the resumption of exports to the US as well as the opening of the Canadian, New Zealand and Israeli beef markets. He said significant steps were also taken in terms of access to markets in China, South Korea and Vietnam.
The Irish Farmers Association also welcomed the news, which it described as a positive development for Ireland’s beef sector.
However, IFA president Joe Healy called for strong price increases from meat factories for farmers and urged Mr Creed to mount a major diplomatic initiative to further boost exports.
“It is clear there are real opportunities for Ireland in the live export markets such as Turkey, North Africa and Continental Europe and all of these must be actively pursued in 2017,” said Mr Healy.