Irish processed, cooked, minced and bone-in beef could be exported to Saudi Arabia before the end of 2017, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said.
Speaking to journalists last night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, following the news that Ireland had secured enhanced access for Irish beef, the Minister indicated that Irish beef could be exported to Saudi Arabia this year.
“I have the certification [for the further access] in my hands going home, so once we convey that to the various parties that are interested [in exporting to the market], I would imagine that this would happen in 2017.”
While the Minister did not put a volume amount on how much beef might be exported, he said that this enhanced access is a welcome step for the industry.
Yesterday, it was announced that Ireland now has access to export processed, cooked, minced and bone-in beef to Saudi Arabia.
The agreement followed high level discussions yesterday between Minister Creed and Prof. Dr Hisham Saad Aljadhey, the Executive President of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), which is the competent authority in Saudi Arabia for market access matters.
Awareness of Ireland as a source of (halal) beef is relatively high in the region with Ashbourne Meats the most visible Irish company before BSE meant Irish imports were banned, according to Bord Bia.
Ireland, since 2012 (after the ban was lifted), has only had access to the market for chilled and frozen boneless beef slaughtered under the age of 30 months.
The volume of beef being exported to Saudi Arabia has been steadily growing and peaked in 2015 when 1,100t, in value terms €3.5m, was shipped to the Middle Eastern country.
Bord Bia data shows that Saudi Arabia has a fast-growing foodservice market and is seen as a potentially lucrative market for value added meats in the future.
Saudi Arabia has grown to be an important market for the Irish agri-food sector and in 2016 Irish agri-food exports were valued at €136m.