week-long trade mission to the US and Mexico aimed at expanding market opportunities is being led by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Minister Creed, along with an Irish delegation of state agencies and food industry representatives, began the visit in Washington on Sunday, June 18.

Comprising of almost 30 separate events and engagements, the delegation will also visit Maryland, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago and Mexico City.

The importance of providing the agriculture industry with further opportunities to grow in international markets, both by developing existing opportunities and by opening up new markets, cannot be underestimated, according to Minister Creed.

“This trade mission is a great opportunity to strengthen our existing market presence in the US; to deepen the existing footprint of the Irish food sector in Mexico; and to establish a platform to develop new market opportunities for Irish beef and pigmeat there.

It will grant us crucial opportunities to meet representatives of the new US administration, and to gain a better understanding of their key policy priorities in the agri-food sector.

“It will also allow us to engage with political counterparts in Mexico as we endeavour to forge new opportunities for Irish food companies,” he said.

Opportunities in the US

The delegation will also have engagements with key meat, dairy, beverage and agri-industry representatives.

It is hoped these engagements will provide the Irish delegation with a better understanding of how those individual sectors operate, as well as allowing the delegation to showcase the Irish dairy, meat and beverage offering to the US representatives.

The US is a major importer of Irish agri-food products which, in 2016, were valued at more than €1 billion, according to the department.

On the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Origin Green programme, the delegation will demonstrate to US food and beverage representatives the advantages of partnering with Origin Green verified members, the CEO of Bord Bia, Tara McCarthy, said.

Bord Bia Tara McCarthy

Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia

We will also be seeking approval from the USDA for our eight marketing claims for Irish beef, which were audited by the USDA last week.

“Approval would allow us, and our customers, to integrate the claims within our US strategy and use the USDA seal on products as well as in-store,” she said.

Trade development in Mexico

Meanwhile, Minister Creed will be focusing on trade development opportunities during his visit to Mexico, where he will meet agriculture and trade officials.

“Mexico is a significant importer of agri-food products and is a new and developing market where we need to establish relationships and links.

“Meetings with political counterparts, as well as local experts in the pigmeat and beef industries, will help us to better understand the market and to align our food offering with the demands of the Mexican market,” he said.

According to McCarthy, the Irish delegation will be engaging with meat industry representatives in advance of access for pigmeat and beef during the Mexican leg of the visit.

They will also be meeting with drinks and dairy buyers to build Ireland’s brand in the market, she added.

Mexico is Ireland’s 14th biggest bilateral trading partner worldwide and Ireland’s biggest trading partner in Latin America, the department outlined.

In particular, Mexico was the 13th largest destination for Irish dairy exports in 2016; total exports amounted to around €52.6 million or 14,500t last year.

Importance of trade development in the face of Brexit

Minister Creed also took the opportunity to underline the importance of trade development and diversification in the aftermath of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

“Building new opportunities for trade is already a central element in Ireland’s Food Wise 2025 Strategy and is all the more important against the backdrop of Brexit.

“I am delighted to lead this important trade mission and I am convinced that the collaboration between government, its agencies and industry operators that is evident on such missions makes a real and positive difference to Irish companies exporting into these markets,” he concluded.