McConalogue in the United States for a trade mission as access to sheepmeat draws closer

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Agriculture, Food and Navy Minister Charlie McConalogue will lead a “major” agribusiness trade mission to the United States this week, specifically to the cities of Chicago and the nation’s capital, Washington DC, as well as in the state of Ohio.

The mission will be carried out with the cooperation of Bord Bia. Minister of State for New Market Development Martin Heydon will also be in the United States next week, visiting Texas before traveling just south of the border to lead a mission to Mexico.

Minister McConalogue also announced that an agreement has been reached with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on a “veterinary health certificate” for the export of Irish sheep meat to the country.

Obtaining an agreement on a bilateral health certificate allows Irish sheepmeat factories to formally apply for permission to export to the United States. Last December, the USDA removed restrictions on exports of most sheep and goat products from the EU.

“This agreement provides full access for Irish sheepmeat to the US market. It marks another welcome step in the diversification of overseas markets for Irish sheepmeat, in line with Food Vision 2030’s aim to access and develop new market opportunities in priority markets,” said Minister McConalogue.

“The rapid agreement on certification terms comes after many years of preparatory work, in particular the recognition by the USDA in 2019 of the equivalence of the Irish sheep meat inspection system with US national standards”, he added.

“It is now up to the industry, in collaboration with my ministry, to apply for and complete the process of plant approval, over the next few months. I hope to see exporters take advantage of this niche opportunity as soon as possible,” the minister said.

According to Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia research shows that lamb consumption is increasing among US consumers, particularly in younger age groups.

Bord Bia is set to launch a three-year EU co-funded beef and lamb initiative in the United States called “Working with Nature”.

Market information from Bord Bia shows that sheep meat import volumes into the United States have increased from 103,527 t in 2015 to 166,165 t in 2021.

Of last year’s imports, about 68% were frozen and 32% chilled. Australia and New Zealand currently account for the vast majority of imports into the United States, accounting for 98% of all imports by volume.

Commenting on the wider aims of the trade mission, Minister McConalogue said: “The US is a key market for Irish agri-food exports, with exports valued at €1.3 billion last year.

The minister will meet with his US counterpart, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as other government officials and members of Congress (the US equivalent of the Oireachtas).

“Meeting with Secretary Vilsack and other key government and congressional players is critical to maintaining our already excellent relationship with the United States,” he said.

Minister of State Heydon said, “Connecting with our growing markets in the Southwest United States – especially Texas – and Mexico is important to underscore the strong credibility of our agri-food exports.

He pointed out that Mexico is a potentially important destination for Irish pork.

Bord Bia’s McCarthy pointed out that the US is Ireland’s second largest export market after the UK.

“This week, we’re focusing on business generation and conversion; build the reputation of Irish food and drink exports; and identify value-added opportunities for exports,” McCarthy noted.

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