Minister Creed leads major agri-food trade mission to North Africa

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed is leading 10 Irish agri-food companies on a five-day trade mission to North Africa, from today, November 2.

Minister Creed will lead the mission in Morocco for three days and the trade delegation, led by his Department, will continue to Algeria.

Speaking in advance of his departure, Minister Creed said that North Africa offers enormous potential for the Irish food and drink industry.

“Diversification of markets is a key goal of Food Wise 2025 and Africa represents a major potential growth area. This is even more important now as we face the uncertainty which the Brexit decision brings for exporters.

“As Minister I am determined to be proactive in the face of the threat posed to our agri-food sector by Brexit.”

Securing new markets and consolidating and expanding existing markets for our exports is a key part of this strategy.

“I am pleased to be accompanied by some 10 Irish companies on the mission, along with senior officials from my Department and from State Agencies in the agri-food and fisheries sector, including Bord Bia and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland.”

The Minister’s mission commences Wednesday in Morocco where he will be based until Saturday for a series of trade promotion events and political meetings with Moroccan counterparts.

Commenting on the Moroccan leg of the visit the Minister said that agri-food exports from Ireland to Morocco last year continued their steady growth and have now almost doubled from around €8m in 2013 to almost €14.5m in 2015.

2016 is also looking to be a very positive year so far with almost €13 million in agri-food products exported by the end of July which is almost the entire amount for 2015.

“We can do better, however, and I want to raise the profile of Ireland as a producer of top class food and livestock in this region, at both political and commercial level.

“I look forward to meeting my counterpart Minister Aziz Akhannouch in Rabat, and to meeting key contacts in a number of influential state agencies.”

The Minister is accompanied by Irish exporters in the dairy, meat and livestock sectors. In this regard, he said that he wants to develop a platform for strong and growing strategic partnerships between Moroccan and Irish food companies and to provide a political platform for enhanced commercial engagement between Irish companies and potential business partners in this region.

Algeria

On Friday, senior officials from the Minister’s Department will proceed to Algeria, accompanied by Aidan Cotter of Bord Bia and the rest of the business delegation.

The main event will be an Ireland-Algeria agri-food seminar in Algiers on Monday, November 7. The event will include speakers from both the Irish and Algerian agri-food sectors.

Figures show that the value of our exports of agri-food products to Algeria was over €41m in 2015, up from less than €30m a few years earlier.

These figures are driven by strong growth in our dairy exports, particularly powders, butter, cheese and caseins, according to the Department. Dairy exports to Algeria in 2015 were over €40m.

Minister Creed said that he is delighted that Ireland is co-hosting this high-level event which is aimed at expanding Ireland’s footprint in this key target market for Irish agri-food exports.

“This event will really help us to sell the image of Ireland as a premium producer of sustainable food and will also be a key networking opportunity for Irish companies with Algerian buyers.

“Dairy is very much the dominant sector for Irish exports to Algeria currently but I am determined to expand this into other sectors also.”

New sheepmeat markets

Meanwhile, in a major development for the Irish sheep sector, the Minister also signalled his intention to commence the process for securing market access for Irish sheepmeat into Morocco and Algeria during the visit.

Sheepmeat exports from Ireland in 2015 were worth more than €230m (46,000t) and Ireland exported sheepmeat to over 40 countries last year.

Securing new market access is always a priority for Ireland’s meat sectors, the Minister said.

“While we have market access for beef to both countries, we would very much like to add Morocco and Algeria to that list of Countries accepting sheepmeat.

Our lamb is world famous and sold in over 40 countries now and I will be raising the issue of sheepmeat access in meetings in political meetings in both countries.

Concluding, Minister Creed said that the growing demand for food products in North Africa represents a major opportunity for Irish agri-food sector.

“Irish companies have already made some inroads into these markets but the potential is there for significant expansion.

“We are targeting two key markets this week and I am confident that this mission will enhance Ireland’s reputation and make a significant contribution to developing the footprint of Irish companies in that part of the world.

“Events such as this mission form part of the Government’s strategic response to the threat posed to our agri-food sector by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.”