Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

No Irish 'manufacturing' beef exported to the US, four months after access was granted

Pic Getty Images.
Pic Getty Images.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Four months on since Irish manufacturing beef, which is used for mince-based products, was granted access to the US none has been exported.

Ireland was the first EU Member State to be granted access to the US for manufacturing beef, which is typically used in burgers and processed products.

Access was granted to Irish manufacturing beef after more than a year of intensive work by the Department of Agriculture, it said, and built on the January 2015 granting of access to raw, intact Irish beef. The first shipments of Irish beef landed in the less than three months later, in time for St Patrick's day.

At the time, the then Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the US market could be worth €100m per annum to Irish beef exports.

However, Department of Agriculture figures, obtained by show that by the end of quarter three this year, only an estimated 1,800t of beef has been exported to the US, with an estimated value of €13m.

It said trade in manufacturing beef has not yet commenced so trade to date is entirely composed of intact cuts.

Total Irish beef exports to the US in 2015 were worth €14m.

Last year, before access was granted Bord Bia said access for manufacturing beef would be the 'big prize' for Ireland.

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It also said that finding buyers and distributors for Irish manufacturing beef would be less challenging than that for intact beef.

Bord Bia said that following overall approval from USDA/FSIS for manufacturing beef in July this year, the industry set about clarifying a number of issues around securing the necessary approval at individual plant level.

It says USDA-approved plants in Ireland are now in the process of undertaking the plant baseline survey for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) that is required to be completed in advance of specific plant approval to start shipping this meat.

Currently, there are six Irish plants approved to export beef to the US. Meat Industry Ireland, the representative body for Meat Processors in Ireland, said that following the July announcement, companies have been engaging with the Department on the technical steps and process necessary to obtain individual plant approvals for manufacturing beef.

US Beef Imports

Bord Bia says US beef imports are down year on year due to recovery in domestic supplies coupled with reduced supplies from Australia and New Zealand due to herd rebuilding there.

It says the main import suppliers remain Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand. However, Bord Bia does say that Brazil is also gaining more market share but is still significantly lower than Oceania and North American imports.

The total US beef market is estimated at 11m metric tonnes per annum and is split 60pc foodservice/40pc grocery retail. Approximately 1m tonnes of this is imported, the bulk of which is manufacturing beef.

In relation to Irish beef export volumes to the US market, MII stated "while volumes being exported are low relative to other markets, there has been a steady, albeit modest increase in trade throughout 2016 and we understand that approximately 2,300 tonne (carcase weight equivalent) have been exported up to end-September".

"While the strong beef price witnessed in the US during 2014 and 2015 has passed, and with it some of the immediate opportunity, full access to this market is nonetheless important in terms of future potential," it said.

Ireland is the largest net exporter of beef in the Northern Hemisphere.

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