Our beef ready for return to US tables after a 16-year ban
IRISH beef will be in US shops by Christmas, marking the end of a 16-year long ban.
It will give the beef industry a multi-million boost.
The prediction was made by leading US and Irish agriculture officials, Secretary Tom Vilsack and Minister Simon Coveney, during a whistle-stop tour of Irish farms yesterday.
Beef was first removed from American shops at the height of the BSE crisis that hit the Irish cattle herd in the late 1990s.
"We would be very surprised if there were any problems," Mr Vilsack told journalists during a tour of Stephen Morrison's 80 cow beef farm in Kildare.
The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service first gave the green light to EU beef imports last November, but final audits of meat export plants commence here on June 30.
"This is the end game now," said Agriculture Minister Mr Coveney: "Mr Vilsack's job is done now in terms of the politics. I expect a formal announcement on this within six weeks."
While Ireland was only exporting 110t of beef to the US prior to the ban, meat industry analysts here believe that there is a much bigger opportunity for Irish beef being sold as a premium 'grass-fed' product.