Irish beef gets US green light

Irish beef gets US green light

Irish steak is back on American menus after the US agreed to resume beef imports from Ireland.
The news follows a successful inspection by the US authorities of Ireland's beef production systems in July of last year and means that Ireland is now the only EU country with access to the US market.

Beef from the EU has been excluded from the US since it imposed a ban on imports 16 years ago during the BSE crisis. However, yesterday's announcement opens up the possibility of multi-million euro exports for Irish beef processors.

Commenting on the news, Minister Simon Coveney said he was delighted and described it as a huge endorsement of Irish beef and the country's production and regulatory systems.

"This announcement marks a fantastic start to 2015 for the Irish beef sector," Minister Coveney said.

"This is the culmination of two years of intensive work between my Department and our US counterparts to prove our credentials as a supplier of highest quality premium beef.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my US counterpart, secretary of state Tom Vilsack, with whom I've worked very closely on this issue to bring it to this stage," he added.

This US decision clears the way for the Irish authorities to approve individual beef plants here to export to the US.

The Department of Agriculture said such approvals will be based on agreed criteria with their US counterparts.

While the US was initially viewed as potentially a niche market for grass-fed Irish beef, Minister Coveney has predicted that price movement in the market means that it could develop into a major outlet for beef.

Joe Burke of Bord Bia pointed out that US beef prices were now significantly higher than those available in Ireland.

"American beef farmers are now receiving an equivalent of €4.80/kg, while the Irish vat exclusive price is €3.85/kg," Mr Burke said.

"Beef processors here will be working from a standing start in the US and the focus initially will be high quality steak cuts but the hope is that it will progress from there," he added.

However, while Mr Burke insisted that it was too early to predict export volumes at this stage, he said the importance of the market lay in the fact that Irish beef was viewed as being of sufficient quality to merit the market being opened.

He also pointed out that it offered an alternate market for Irish beef, which is largely concentrated on Britain and Europe.

"The US market is a huge prize given the size of the market and the demand we know exists there for premium grass-fed beef. We now have first-mover advantage as a result of being the first EU member state to gain entry," Minister Coveney said.

"My Department and Bord Bia have been planning for this announcement for some time now and will announce a number of initiatives in the coming weeks including a dedicated website aimed at American consumers and buyers highlighting the quality of Irish beef.