Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Brexit-proof beef deal secured with Saudi Arabian government

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Tony Gavin
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Tony Gavin
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

An agreement on enhanced access for Irish beef to Saudi Arabia has been announced as a major agri-food trade mission to the Gulf region continues.

The agreement will make a difference to Irish companies wishing to export beef to Saudi Arabia, by adding processed, cooked, minced and bone-in beef to the products that can be exported to Saudi Arabia.

The deal was brokered in a bid to increase export opportunities for farmers here in the wake of the UK's exit from Europe.

Ireland shipped 526 million tonnes of beef in 2016, worth €2.4bn. Of this, 234,000t went to Britain and a further 31,000t to Northern Ireland, which combined represents 265,000t of our total exports, or just over half. Overall, the UK and EU accounted for 91pc of Irish beef and offal exports in 2016.

The agreement with Saudi Arabia follows high level discussions between Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Prof Dr Hisham Saad Aljadhey, the Executive President of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), which is the competent authority in Saudi Arabia for market access matters.

Read more: Opinion: Brexit could force our politicians to face down the supermarket chains

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Creed said the agreement was a testament to the high regard in which Irish beef is held in the country and marks the culmination of intensive work by his department, the Irish Embassy in Riyadh and the industry over recent months.

"Last year Ireland exported some €2.4bn worth of beef to around 70 countries," he said.

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"I am very cognisant of the need both to expand the number of beef markets but also to enhance existing market access given our current exposure to the UK beef market.

"Minced, processed and cooked beef are all potentially valuable products and we want to develop export opportunities for them, in addition to intact cuts of beef," he said.

The minister also discussed a number of technical certification issues of interest to the dairy and other sectors, and both sides agreed that the process for Irish sheep meat access should commence, and arrangements are being made to follow up on the necessary technical steps. Last year Saudi Arabia was the third largest non-EU destination for Irish agri-food exports, only behind China and the USA.

Total agri-food exports to Saudi Arabia increased from €92m in 2013 to €136m in 2016, representing an increase of almost 50pc over the course of only three years.

Mr Creed also attended the launch of Green Isle Foods' Goodfellas pizza range at Danube, one of the largest Saudi retail outlets.

Green Isle Foods is Ireland's largest frozen food manufacturing company and exports its products to over 30 countries worldwide.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Creed said: "I am delighted to have launched a branded Irish product on Saudi retail shelves.

"Green Isle Foods is a perfect example of an Irish prepared consumer foods company doing business all over the globe."

Irish Independent

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