IFA, processors welcome US endorsement
There was a broad welcome to the opening up of the US to Irish beef imports, with both the farm organisations and processors insisting that the announcement represented an excellent opportunity for the industry.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) described the US decision as important from both a business and reputational perspective.
"This is a further endorsement of our food safety standards and our quality management systems. It is positive from an overall trade perspective and our ongoing work in improving international market access for Irish beef," MII said.
"From a business perspective, we believe that the US market will ultimately be a high-value/low-volume niche market, principally for Irish grass-fed steak cuts.
"However, at present, due to lower-than-normal beef production in the US, there is opportunity to potentially export greater volumes, including manufacturing beef, in the course of 2015 and hopefully 2016, while US herd rebuilding is underway," the industry body added.
However, MII said processors were awaiting clarification on some aspects of what will be specifically required by the US regulatory authorities.
"The next steps are to agree a veterinary certificate, clarify outstanding details and progress the approval of additional plants beyond those initially approved. MII will be meeting with the Department of Agriculture this week to advance these issues," MII stated.
Meanwhile, IFA president Eddie Downey said the US announcement was a positive development but cautioned that its significance only be judged on the prices secured in the marketplace.
Mr Downey said US beef prices had increased by €1/kg in the last year and now stood at €4.70-€4.80/kg, and that this presented a real opportunity for Irish grass-based beef exports.
He added that greater market access had to be reflected in stronger prices to Irish farmers.
ICSA president Patrick Kent also gave a guarded welcome to the news that Ireland has secured beef access to the US market.
"This could be a very important development for hard-pressed beef farmers, provided that the meat industry and Bord Bia market Irish beef as a premium product with a view to improving returns to farmers," Mr Kent said.
"However, farmers will remain sceptical given the ruthless downward manipulation of prices by the meat industry over the past 12 months. They are still waiting to see concrete benefits from previous announcements of new markets," he added.
Michael Guinan of the ICMSA congratulated Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, for his efforts in opening the US market.
However, he said there was little point in the Government securing new and better markets for Irish beef if the factories were going to hog the better margins available and keep suppressing the price paid to farmers.
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