US market opens up for beef from NI

Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) chief executive Ian Stevenson believes the news that two local red meat processors have been certified to export beef to the United States will have very positive implications for the local livestock sector as a whole.

Saturday, 19th September 2020, 8:19 am

He said: “This week’s developments represent the culmination of five years’ work on the part of the UK Export Certification Partnership.

“The membership groupings within this organisation include the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, LMC and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association.

“Getting access to any new market is a painstaking process including detailed inspections of our processing plants, a thorough investigation of our traceability systems and an assessment of our BSE status.

“The work done over the past five years with the US authorities should provide opportunities for all our local beef processors to avail of this market.”

But Stevenson explained that it will take time to quantify the full scope of the US market for Northern Irish beef, at least in the short term.

He added: “We are looking at niche marketing opportunities in the first instance. But the scope to grow sales is immense. The US market accounts for 18% of global beef consumption.

“Consumers over there love their red meat. It’s also significant that beef processors in the Republic of Ireland doubled sales to the United States during the first six months of 2020.”

Foyle Food Group (Foyle Campsie) and WD Meats are the two operations that are now eligible to export beef to the United States.

Welcoming the approval from the US authorities, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA said: “The decision by the US authorities to grant access to two local beef processors is a significant move and one that I welcome wholeheartedly.

“It is a credit to the excellent quality, traceability, high animal welfare standards and good environmental practices that we see day in and day out across our agriculture sector. We have an excellent product to sell and we can compete with the best in the world.  With exports possible next month, it will be the first time in 20 years that US citizens will taste the wonderful beef that our farmers rear with dedication and commitment.”

The Minister continued: “This has of course, been a very challenging year for our farmers, with many experiencing significant financial difficulties during the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore the decision by the US authorities will be a real boost for our local beef farmers, not just in economic terms, but it will lift the morale of the sector.

“The opening of the US market has been made possible due to the strenuous efforts of DAERA veterinary teams, working closely with Defra and the industry here in Northern Ireland.”

Commenting on these developments Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) beef and lamb chairman Sam Chesney said: “This is great news for the beef sector in Northern Ireland and it has been long awaited by our beef producers. It has been almost twenty years since UK beef was eligible for sale in the American market after BSE stagnated our industry and all UK beef imports into the States were banned in the mid 1990’s.

“We are very glad that UK beef has been given the green light again and that Foyle Campsie and WD Meats, have gained access.
“Being able to avail of more external markets will create better returns for our primary producers who have been under significant financial pressure the past few years. In particular, the offal market has been very volatile this year due to the pandemic and we hope this access to the US market will create higher demand for products that have taken a serious hit in sales.”

Chesney continued: “Northern Ireland’s beef producers produce trustworthy, traceable beef, farmed to some of the highest animal welfare, environmental and food production standards in the world which we are hugely proud of. This break through with America highlights that their officials have recognised the high-quality products that we have to offer and we are confident that they will be well received by American consumers.
“We would urge UK Government officials and industry stakeholders to continue their work in ensuring there is no delay getting products exported to the USA and we appreciate their work to date on this.”