Earlier this month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) lifted its ban on the important of beef to the US. This ban on the importation of beef from the EU had been in place since 1997 and Ireland is now gearing up for this new multimillion market.

Department of Agriculture officials are currently working on new veterinary requirements, which will be published shortly.

Last week senior officials visited Washington and held high-level meetings with their US counterparts to progress trade.

It is understood the first stage is in the completion of a self-reporting tool (SRT), which is run the US Department of Agriculture and Food Safety and Inspection Service. The document, which runs to more than 150 pages, is a questionnaire for completion by the Irish department of Agriculture.

It is, in effect, the FSIS tool used for assessing equivalence of foreign inspection systems. These criteria reflect the current policy application of the US import regulations and cover government oversight, statutory authority and food safety regulations, sanitation, hazard analysis and critical control point systems, HACCP, chemical residues and microbiological testing programmes.

Ireland has now completed this stage of the operation and the document has been submitted to the US authorities.

It is understood no product can be exported to the US until the USDA completes its analysis of the SRT and finalises the certification arrangements for Ireland.

Speaking on the matter recently, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the opening of this sought-after market provides further evidence of the Government’s ongoing work to grow and develop the beef industry in accordance with the Food Harvest 2020 strategy.

He continued: “I am confident that this market will grow strongly as US consumers realise the superior quality of Irish grass fed beef and the Irish meat industry. Bord Bia is well placed to develop this niche market in the near future. It is important now that all interested parties work together to complete the various requirements to allow the trade to commence at the earliest opportunity.

In addition, he stressed the suckler scheme put in place under the recent Budget will encourage more farmers to get involved in the beef business and produce better quality stock.

The US is a key market for Ireland in the agri-food sector. It is the fourth most important country destination for exports after the UK, France and Germany. Irish exports of agri-food and beverages to the US were valued at €518m in 2012, having grown from €406m in 2010 to €478m in 2011, a 28 per cent rise in two years.

It imported €192m in agricultural products from US in 2012, comprising mainly animal foodstuffs at €99m, food preparations valued at €28m, live animals valued at €15m, fruit and vegetables at €13m and beverages, including wine, at €11.6m.

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