Farmers welcome reopening of US beef trade
Farm sector leaders have welcomed the decision by the US government to reopen its markets to Irish beef imports, the first EU member state to regain access after 15 years of BSE-related trade bans.
The news follows a successful inspection by the US authorities of Ireland’s beef production systems in July last year. Farmer groups said the €1/kg rise in US beef prices in the last year present a real opportunity for Irish grass-based beef exports. US beef prices now stand at €4.70/€4.80/kg.
Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, said: “I am delighted the US market is now open to Irish beef. This is the culmination of two years of intensive work between my department and our US counterparts to prove our credentials as a supplier of highest-quality premium beef. I’d like to thank my US counterpart, Secretary of State Tom Vilsack, with whom I’ve worked very closely on this issue to bring it to this stage.”
He said the US decision was a huge endorsement of Irish beef and production and regulatory systems.
“It’s clear that diversifying our international beef markets as an exporting country is key to the long-term sustainability of Ireland’s beef sector,” he said.
Niall Browne, CEO of Dawn Meats, said: “The opening of the US is clearly a positive for the beef sector in Ireland being such a major beef market, and the minister and his officials deserve huge credit.
“We believe there is a considerable opportunity for Dawn Meats and Irish beef based on our customer visits and meetings in the US over the last two years, and we will be focusing on the premium end of the market where grass-fed beef is increasing in popularity.”
IFA president Eddie Downey said: “This is a positive development and its significance will be judged by farmers securing improved beef prices from the market in 2015.”
The IFA president said Irish cattle prices are rising and combined with much tighter supplies in 2015, price prospects look much more promising for beef farmers.
He said prices have opened stronger with a base of €4.00/kg for steers and €4.05/€4.10 base for heifers. He said factories are already finding it difficult to procure tighter supplies and top prices of €4.20 to €4.40/kg for specialist lots have been paid.
The ICMSA livestock chairman Michael Guinan said the present US beef prices represented a decent opportunity for Irish product, but he cautioned that all the Government’s efforts to secure re-entry to the US market would be wasted unless this hugely positive achievement was reflected in the price being paid to the farmers raising the beef.
ICSA president Patrick Kent said farmers will only take the good news on US trade reopening seriously when they see domestic factory prices increase.
“Farmers remain sceptical given the ruthless downward manipulation of prices by the meat industry over the past twelve months,” he said. “They are still waiting to see concrete benefits from previous announcements of new markets.”
Macra na Feirme president Kieran O’Dowd, said: “ This is a great start to the new year and hopefully a sign of how this year will develop for Irish agriculture.”
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