Egypt team set to oversee Irish beef delivery


An Egyptian meat inspection team arrived in Ireland at the weekend to supervise the production of the first consignment of beef for export to Egypt since the €254 million market was closed following the BSE crisis.

Agra Trading, part of the Kepak processing group, hosted the team which will supervise the slaughtering and processing of cattle in accordance with strict conditions agreed by the Irish and Egyptian governments last Autumn for the reopening of the Egyptian market. These include a stipulation that the beef must come only from cattle under 24 months.

While initial volumes are not expected to be large, the industry hopes that if this first consignment is completed satisfactorily, the trade will strengthen.

Supplies of cattle are lower in summer, but a re-opened Egyptian market would provide a valuable outlet when supplies are plentiful towards the year's end. While an immediate impact on cattle prices, is not expected it would give some support for the autumn market. Demand for beef in Egypt is lower in the hot summer months, whereas it will increase from September in the lead up to Ramadan, which starts in early November.

No other contracts for the supply of beef to Egypt appear to be in the pipeline yet, but Irish firms traditionally traded through regular contact rather than long-term contracts.

The processors have kept in touch with their Egyptian customers and some have traded beef from South America into Egypt to keep up supplies.

Egypt was the State's single most important export market between 1998 and 2000, taking almost half of all cattle slaughtered. The market was closed to all EU cattle in November 2000 and Ireland is the first EU state to have had access again.

But Egypt's market has changed in the last two years. The economy is less buoyant and Irish supplies have been replaced by those from South America and India, which will make the market more competitive. Mr Owen Brooks, director of international markets at Bord Bia, welcomed the move to restore trade with traditional markets like Egypt.