Sheepmeat access on the agenda as US inspectors set for Irish visit

A group of inspectors from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to visit a number of Irish beef, pig and sheepmeat plants in the not too distant future.

The inspectors are to arrive in September and will spend time assessing the high standards of Irish processing facilities.

In more recent times, the focus has been on exporting beef to the US. Back in July 2016, Ireland was given clearance to export manufacturing beef, in other words mince, across the Atlantic.

Since then, two Irish processors have been approved to send such a product. In addition, Ireland was also approved to ship raw intact beef from Ireland to the US in January 2015.

Some 804t of this product was exported up to the middle of June this year – bringing the total quantity exported to 4,116t between 2015 and mid-June 2017.

However, AgriLand understands that the primary focus of the upcoming visit is on sheepmeat access; and it is hoped the inspection visit will progress the matter of Irish sheepmeat access to the US.

Accessing the US market will be a positive step for the Irish sheepmeat industry, as the market imported 86,000t of sheepmeat in 2016 – over 50% of its domestic consumption.

This means that the US was the fourth largest importer of sheepmeat on the global stage in 2016.

In addition, US sheepmeat imports have also risen in recent months, as Australian and New Zealand exporters continue to divert product away from the UK market due to weaker sterling.

Between January and April of this year, the US imported 41,100t of sheepmeat – a jump of 18% compared to the same period in 2016.