16 Aug 2022

Big boost for sheep sector - way cleared for exports to America

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to lead agri-food trade mission to the United States

Sheep meat from Donegal could soon be making its way to the United States.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D., will this week lead a major agri-food trade mission to the United States  - taking in Chicago, Ohio and Washington D.C. - in cooperation with Bord Bia, while Minister of State Martin Heydon T.D. will lead engagements in Texas and Mexico.

Minister McConalogue has announced that agreement has been reached with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on a veterinary health certificate for the export of Irish sheepmeat to the US.

Securing agreement on a bilateral health certificate allows Irish sheep meat plants to formally apply for approval to export to the US.  

This will be a big boost for the Irish sheep sector.

Minister McConalogue said: “This agreement provides full access for Irish sheepmeat to the US market. It marks another welcome move in the diversification of overseas markets for Irish sheepmeat in line with the Food Vision 2030 goal of accessing and developing new market opportunities in priority markets. 

“It is the result of diligent work by my officials and the Embassy of Ireland in Washington DC, following the lifting last December of the US ban on EU sheep meat exports. The speedy agreement on certification conditions comes after many years of preparatory work; in particular, UDSA recognition in 2019 of the equivalence Ireland’s sheepmeat inspection system with US domestic  standards. It is, therefore, very much a testament to the high standards and reputation of Irish sheep farming. Our sheep farmers are world class producing a safe, sustainable and healthy product that is in demand in markets across the globe.

Minister McConalogue continued: “It is now up to industry working with my Department to apply for and complete the plant approval process, over the coming  months. I hope to see exporters take advantage of this niche opportunity as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will use this Trade Mission to raise the profile of Irish grass-fed lamb in the US and promote awareness of it as a premium natural product.”

Welcoming the news, Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy said: “There has never been a better time for Irish companies to export lamb to the US, with Bord Bia research showing that lamb consumption is growing amongst consumers, particularly in the younger age categories in North America.

“In June, Bord Bia launches a three-year EU co-funded beef and lamb promotion in the US, called ‘Working with Nature’. This campaign sees Bord Bia investing €1 million euro in marketing and promotional seminars, events and promotional activities from 2022 to 2025. This programme shows Bord Bia’s ongoing commitment to developing sustainable business relationships for our industry.”

According to Bord Bia’s market insights, import volumes of sheepmeat to the US have increased from 103,527 tonnes in 2015 to 166,165 tonnes in 2021. Of last year’s imports, approximately 68% was frozen and 32% was chilled. Australia and New Zealand account for the majority of imports to the US, representing 98% of all imports in volume terms.


Speaking ahead of the Trade Mission, Minister McConalogue said: “I greatly look forward to this important Trade Mission. The United States is a key market for Irish agri-food exports, with exports valued at €1.3 Billion last year. Meeting with Secretary for Agriculture Vilsack and other key players from Government and Congress is vital, in maintaining our already excellent relations with the US. I am also eager to take part in our joint event with the World Bank on Sustainable Food Systems, particularly in the context of the Ukraine Crisis.”

Minister of State for New Market Development Martin Heydon said: “It is important to touch base with our growing markets in the southwest of the US – especially Texas – and Mexico to underline the strong credentials of our agri-food exports. This will be the key focus of my visit. Mexico is also a potentially important export market for Irish pigmeat, and I look forward to engaging with key stakeholders from Mexican Government, retail and hospitality sectors to help maximise this opportunity for the Irish pig sector.”

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