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Ireland becomes first EU country allowed to sell beef to the US since BSE ban

IRELAND HAS BECOME the first EU country to be granted permission to sell beef to the US market in over fifteen years.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney announced today that Ireland will now be allowed to export beef for sale in the US, making Ireland the first EU member state to achieve this since the ban was imposed nearly two decades ago during the BSE crisis.

The permission was granted after a successful inspection by US authorities of Ireland’s beef production systems in July of last year.

Minister Coveney said he was “delighted” to confirm that the US market is now open to Irish beef, adding that it was the culmination of two years of intensive work between his department and the US to prove Ireland’s credentials as a supplier of highest quality premium beef.

BSE ban

Beef from the EU has been banned from the US since it imposed its ban for BSE reasons over fifteen years ago and this ban was only formally lifted in March 2014. Ireland had been consistently calling for the US to lift its ban and Minister Coveney had raised the matter with Secretary of State Tom Vilsack , citing the high demand for Irish beef around the world as proof of its quality and reliability.

Coveney said that today’s announcement by the US “is a huge endorsement of Irish beef and our production and regulatory systems”.

He added that it complements the other market access outlets Ireland have secured in the last two years all of which are a key element of our Food Harvest 2020 strategy to expand the overseas opportunity for Irish beef.

It’s clear that diversifying our international beef markets as an exporting country is key to the long-term sustainability of our beef sector.

This US decision clears the way for the Irish authorities to approve individual beef plants here to export to the US, approval for which will be based on agreed criteria with their US counterparts.

The agriculture department has already begun working with interested Irish plants to assess their readiness and suitability for export for some time, with the department stating that work will intensify now in order that the trade can formally commence as soon as possible.

Coveney said the large Irish-American community will be a key target for Ireland’s promotional efforts for Irish beef.

This 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.

The department and Bord Bia said they will announce a number of new initiatives in the coming weeks, which will include a dedicated website aimed at American consumers and buyers highlighting the quality of Irish beef.

The Irish Farmers Association have welcomed the news, with IFA President Eddie Downey stating that it is a positive development.

He said its significance will be judged by farmers securing improved beef prices from the market place in 2015.

Eddie Downey said the major increase in US beef prices, up by €1/kg in the last year and now at €4.70/€4.80/kg, must present a real opportunity for Irish grass-based beef exports.

He added that Irish cattle prices are rising and combined with much tighter supplies in 2015, price prospects look much more promising for beef farmers.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the Ibec group that represents meat processors, also welcomed today’s news, stating that it is important now to get an agreed certificate in place as soon as possible so that trade can commence.

First published 07.25am on the Journal.ie