Saturday 23 September 2017

Quota for Irish beef imports to US could be used up by August

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD, promoting Irish beef in the USA.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD, promoting Irish beef in the USA.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

New concerns have emerged over access for our beef to the US market, as the quota for Irish imports could be used up within months.

Beef exporters are worried that the much-trumpeted access for Irish beef could dry up too quickly.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney raised the issue during a meeting with his US counterpart, Secretary for Agriculture Tom Vilack, in Washington yesterday.

"It's a good problem to have in some ways, it shows how much interest there is in this market," said Mr Coveney last night. "But this cannot be solved unilaterally."

Continuity of supply will be crucial for Irish beef exporters targeting the premium end of the US's 11 million tonne beef market.

Mr Coveney is in the US following the readmission of Irish product for the first time since a ban was placed on European beef in the wake of the 1990s BSE crisis.

A series of high-profile engagements, along with hostings in restaurants in New York, Washington and Boston, came as the Irish beef industry targets one of the most lucrative markets in the world.

US beef prices have hit record highs on the back of years of successive droughts, which have forced cattle farmers to cull up to 66pc of their herds. With the national herd now at a level not seen since 1951, US prices have rocketed to levels that are 24pc higher than Irish prices.

Larry Goodman's ABP was the first European company to get its beef back into the US, with a €15m deal with US food distribution giant Sysco this week. All the other major Irish beef exporters have senior representatives in the US with the minister.

Bord Bia believes that there is a huge opening in the US for the grass-fed and hormone-free beef synonymous with Ireland's clean, green image abroad.

"This sector is growing at 20pc a year, and will command an even bigger premium than the 24pc difference that currently exists between US and Irish prices," Bord Bia CEO Aidan Cotter said.

Mr Cotter proved true to his claim that no expense would be spared in the effort to promote Irish beef as over 100 invited influential Irish-Americans, food writers and chefs were invited on Monday night to taste the best of Irish beef in Daniel, a two-Michelin-star restaurant on Upper East Side Manhattan.

A menu of seven different dishes, including tenderloin tartare with an oyster gelée and fillet with foie gras carpaccio and black truffles, washed down with wine.

But beef bosses were privately voicing the unease with the fact that there was only 9,000 tonnes of quota available to the whole of the EU and other US beef exporters such as Costa Rica.

Irish Independent

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