The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has concluded the first leg of an Irish agri-food trade mission to the Gulf region, with a series of government and business engagements.

The minister met his UAE counterpart, her excellency H.E. Mariam Al-Mheiri and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of food security.

Minister McConalogue said: “Government to government engagements are a key part of any trade mission, and I was delighted to meet with my UAE counterpart for a positive exchange of views on issues of common interest.

“I also raised market access issues, expressing the hopes that it will be possible for the UAE to confirm that poultry meat and eggs can again be exported from counties Cavan and Monaghan, now that Ireland is thankfully free of Highly Pathogenetic Avian Influenza (HPAI).”

Trade mission with minister

The minister also opened a Bord Bia celebration of Irish food at the Irish pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020, a major international showpiece.

“The theme of Ireland’s participation at Expo is ‘Island of Inspiration’, and I can see that spirit of inspiration and creativity reflected in the Irish food producers, large and small, who are innovating and finding routes to premium markets in the Gulf region,” the minister said. 

Speaking after a meeting with the leadership team of the Spinneys Group, Minister McConalogue said: “It was great to see some of the staples of the Irish kitchen table on sale in the premium retailer of the region – Spinneys. 

“Seeing Irish food being the ‘go-to’ choice for Spinneys is a testament to the world class food produced on Irish farms as well as the added value aspects we are continually seeking to develop.”

Speaking at Gulfood in Dubai, Minister McConalogue said: “Gulfood is at the crossroads of the world and is the biggest food expo on the planet.

“Within a two hour flight from Dubai, there is a population of 2 billion people, so Gulfood is key for Irish food companies to develop new customers and to engage with existing ones. 

“In my meeting with global buyers, they each commented on the tremendous quality of Irish food,” he added.

Ailish Forde, global business development director at Bord Bia said: “At the Gulfood trade show and meetings, customers of Irish food and drinks showed a strong interest in Ireland’s food offering, particularly in the industry approach to sustainability through the Origin Green Programme.

“The high level of engagement between Ireland exporters and buyers is encouraging, and assured me that these opportunities will multiply as these economies grow, and their awareness of Ireland as a source of sustainable quality food and drink increases.”

Today (Tuesday, February 15), Minister McConalogue began the next leg of the trade mission in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with government to government meetings with his counterpart Minister H.E. Eng. Abdul Rahman Al-Fadley, Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), H.E. Dr. Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf.