Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has welcomed the progress made on access to the U.S market for Irish lamb, but has warned that action is needed to address quota barriers to beef exports.

According to MII, the lamb import market in the U.S is over 160,000t and is currently dominated by imports from Australia and New Zealand.

Last year, Ireland’s beef exports to the U.S were valued at €36 million, but unless the import quota ‘road block’ is resolved this will not be repeated in 2022, the organisation has said.

Earlier this week, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue announced that an agreement had been reached with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on a ‘veterinary health certificate’ for the export of Irish sheepmeat to the country.

MII statement on beef exports

In a statement to Agriland, MII said: “Irish lamb should now be on shelves in the coming months once the final stages of completing access requirements are completed.

“Irish lamb processors are currently working with the authorities to have facilities approved following Sunday’s announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue of an agreement on a sheepmeat export health certificate for the US,” the statement continued.

A key concern that MII is raising relates to the disruption of Irish beef exports to the U.S due to the import market being swamped by Brazilian beef.

“Due to the return of Brazilian beef in the U.S market, the import quota that importers of Irish beef use, which would normally fill up towards the end of each year, was completely filled by early April this year,” the MII statement outlined.

The organisation said this now presents a major difficulty for Irish beef to enter the U.S market competitively.

Outside of the quota, Irish beef faces an import duty of 26.4% which MII said effectively blocks trade into a beef import market of over one million tonnes.

Meeting with minister

MII said it will meet Minister McConalogue on this issue ahead of his meetings with U.S authorities.

The organisation has already raised this with the EU Commission and will be meeting later this week with EU Commission representatives in Washington.

Senior director at MII, Cormac Healy said: “The progress on lamb exports is very welcome and provides an excellent opportunity to diversify and maximise export market options for Irish lamb.

“I hope to see high quality grass-fed Irish lamb available to U.S consumers as quickly as possible, and I’m confident it can compete well in a growing market.

“We are calling on the Irish government and the EU Commission to work with the U.S authorities to find an early solution on the beef quota issue.

“The return of Brazilian beef exports to the U.S market has swallowed up the available quota for Irish beef and means that from April onwards, Irish beef sales into the U.S market face a 26% import duty, which is clearly prohibitive to trade,” he said.

MII is participating in the week-long trade mission to the U.S and Mexico led by Minister McConalogue and Minister of State with responsibility for new markets, Martin Heydon.