Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has defended his predictions of Irish beef sales to the US since the market re-opened this year. Having fallen far below his expectations he says it “takes time” to build up interest.
The senior Fine Gael figure rejected criticism that just 31 tonnes have been exported to the north American market since it re-opened in early spring for the first time in 15 years, despite his predictions of 20,000 tonnes being sold a year.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, the Cork South Central TD accepted he outlined the initial target alongside a hope it could eventually bring in an annual €100m to the economy. He said it “takes time” to build a base.
The agriculture minister said the comparatively low uptake is partially due to a recent upsurge in interest for Irish beef in the UK meaning the focus has been on “selling more” in that country.
He also said Ireland does not yet have access to the “manufactured beef” market in the US which relates to hamburgers and other products, and as such, export is limited to areas such as “high value steak cuts”.
However, he moved to assure the farming sector that “in a full year when we are operating to optimum conditions” the initially predicted US export rates will happen.
In January, Mr Coveney announced that Irish beef was to be sold again in the US for the first time since the BSE scandal involving the neighbouring UK market in the 1990s.
The move is ultimately expected to bring in up to €100m for the Irish economy, but according to Central Statistics Office figures revealed last week has so far brought in only €194,000.
The US market is hoped to be particularly lucrative for Ireland due to the fact that produce from Ireland is grass-fed, compared to mainly grain-fed rivals in north America.
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