Ireland is on the cusp of gaining of gaining access to the growing Japanese market for sheepmeat, says Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.
He said that agreement in principle has been reached. It was the culmination of ongoing collaboration between the department, assisted by the Irish embassy in Tokyo and the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
“Details of the agreement are expected to be finalised shortly by an exchange of correspondence between my department and the relevant Japanese officials,” he said.
Mr Creed, who was replying to Dáil questions from Sligo Leitrim Fine Gael TD Tom McLoughlin, said Japan offers an important market.
According to a Bord Bia study, Japan imported 24,565 tonnes of sheepmeat at a value of more than €170m last year.
The market has grown about 82% in value in the past five years alone.
“I am hopeful that Irish sheepmeat exports will achieve the same success that our dairy, pigmeat and beef sectors have enjoyed in Japan,” he said.
Mr Creed, who recently led a trade mission to Japan, said the country, represents a growing market.
Trade statistics show that sheepmeat is a meat of preference that has grown significantly in recent years.
“Sheepmeat is a new venture in the Japanese market but there is potential. At the moment, for obvious geographical reasons, Japan is predominantly supplied by the sheep sectors of Australia and New Zealand.
“But there are opportunities for us, particularly in conjunction with other efforts we are making in broader meat protein areas in that market,” he said.
Mr Creed said that the value of imports in the Japanese sheepmeat market between 2013 and 2018 has jumped by over 80% from €93m to €170m.
During the same period, the quantity of imported sheepmeat has grown by only 33%.
“The role of my department is to open up market access and remove barriers to trade.
“The industry must then take advantage of these opportunities,” he said.