The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is to open up its market to exports of Irish sheepmeat in early 2013, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has confirmed.
With a population exceeding eight million, the oil-rich UAE is a significant net importer of food products and sheepmeat is a key dietary staple in the federation.
UAE consists of seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, occupying 83,600 sq. km along the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
Minister Coveney said the agreement on Irish sheepmeat exports was reached following consultations between his Department, the Irish Embassy in the UAE and the UAE authorities. It also follows discussions between Minister Coveney and the UAE Minister of Economy, Sultan Saeed Al Mansouri, when he visited Dublin last October.
The move comes after the UAE agreed to lift the age restriction for Irish beef destined for the UAE and an agreement on a veterinary health certificate allowing for the export of poultry meat and poultry meat products to the UAE.
"While the bulk of Ireland's sheepmeat is exported to the EU, there is increasing interest amongst the industry in exporting Irish sheepmeat to non-EU countries," said Minister Coveney. "The UAE has been identified by the industry as a priority market. I am delighted that we have succeeded in opening this market to Irish lamb and in providing Irish exporters with another potentially valuable market option."