US a key market for Irish whiskey and dairy exports, says Coveney

The US is a hugely important market for Irish food and drink companies, most notably whiskey and dairy producers, according to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

The minister concluded his US trade mission with a visit to Kerry Group’s 250,000sq ft, €50m innovation centre in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Kerry now employs 24,000 people worldwide and is Ireland’s largest food company with over €5bn of turnover in over 120 countries.

Mr Coveney noted that Irish agri-food exports to the US grew by 17.5% in 2011, following on from a 10% rise in 2010. About 5% of all Irish agri-food exports are sent to the US, Ireland’s fifth largest agri-food export partner.

During his tour, the minister met with US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Pat Roberts, Senator Charles Grassley, and senior US department of agriculture officials.

He met with executives of restaurant chain McDonald’s and Beam whiskey, which recently acquired Cooley Whiskey Distillery. US imports of Irish whiskey have doubled in recent years.

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