US decision to lift ban on Irish beef imports welcomed by meat industry

‘We will be focusing on the premium end of the market,’ says Dawn Meats CEO

Beef cattle in Kilkenny: the US is seen as providing a good market for Irish grass-based beef exports. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Beef cattle in Kilkenny: the US is seen as providing a good market for Irish grass-based beef exports. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Beef processors have said they are poised to start exporting to the United States, once the required veterinary certificate is in place. This follows the news that Ireland has become the first European Union member state to secure beef access to the market, since its closure because of BSE fears in the late 1990s.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the Ibec group that represents meat processors, welcomed the news and said it was important to clear the remaining hurdles so that trade could begin.

Its senior executive, Joe Ryan, said a veterinary certificate must now be finalised by the Department of Agriculture and its US counterpart. It’s unclear how long that will take, but he said, once it was finalised, the exports could begin in a matter of weeks. “MII will be meeting with the Department of Agriculture this week to advance these issues.”

Developing contacts

He also said the approval of Irish beef would give a significant boost to Ireland’s international reputation as a high-quality producer.

“From a business perspective, we believe that the US market will ultimately be a high-value, low-volume niche market, principally for Irish grass-fed steak cuts. However, at present, due to lower-than-normal beef production in the US, there is opportunity to potentially export greater volumes, including manufacturing beef, in the course of 2015 and hopefully 2016.”

Dawn Meats chief executive Niall Browne said he believed there were considerable opportunities for Irish beef, based on his customer visits and meetings in the US over the last two years. “We will be focusing on the premium end of the market, where grass-fed beef is increasing in popularity,” he said.

Irish Cattle and Sheep Association president Patrick Kent said the industry should be ambitious in its plans to attract a significant share of the US market. “We also have the added advantage of a receptive market in the 40 million Americans who claim Irish heritage,” he noted.

Irish Farmers’ Association president Eddie Downey said the major increase in US beef prices, up by €1 per kg in the last year and now at up to €4.80 per kg, should present a real opportunity for Irish grass-based beef exports. “ Irish cattle prices are rising and, combined with much tighter supplies in 2015, price prospects look much more promising for beef farmers,” he said.

Price to farmers

Michael Guinan

Announcing the reopening of the market, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney highlighted the advantage Ireland would have as the first EU state to win access. But a joint statement from three EU commissioners, including its agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan, has urged the US department of agriculture to reopen the market to other EU states.