Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has announced progress in expanding market access in Saudi Arabia for Irish beef.
The minister met with the leadership of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) in Riyadh on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022.
They reached an agreement in principle to lift the current restriction whereby Irish beef exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must come from cattle slaughtered under 30 months of age.
Further technical engagement will now take place to complete the necessary formalities to confirm the expanded access.
Furthermore, the minister also secured SFDA commitment to further technical engagement on sheepmeat access. Besides, he also raised the possibility of poultry meat access in the future.
Speaking following the meeting with the SFDA CEO, Dr Hisham bin Saad Aljadhey, Minister McConalogue welcomed the development.
“Following a constructive meeting with the SFDA, I am pleased to report that the requirement for all beef exported to Saudi Arabia to be from animals under 30 months has now been lifted.”
“While the necessary formal exchanges remain to be completed, it is welcome news and comes following detailed engagement with the Saudi competent authorities by my department, with support from the Embassy of Ireland in Riyadh and the agricultural attaché for the Gulf region.”
He said Ireland’s food exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia amounted to almost €100 million last year.
However, he said he views the market as one with “growth potential” especially for Irish beef.
The minister met with retail and foodservice customers this week in Riyadh.
He said they each expressed a “strong” desire to purchase more Irish products in the time ahead.
McConalogue stressed that Irish beef is synonymous with quality, sustainability and safety in the Gulf Region.
“I am confident that the door will soon be open for a wider range of Irish beef access to the Saudi market,” he remarked.
Market with 35 million customers
Ailish Forde, director of global business at Bord Bia, welcomed the success of the Saudi Arabia engagement.
She said Saudi Arabia represents a “considerable” opportunity for the Irish food sector.
She said the outcomes from the Ministerial engagement this week are “really positive”. They will deliver further opportunities to a market with 35 million consumers.
“Bord Bia research illustrates the extent to which these consumers are interested in quality, natural and sustainably produced food. We look forward to engaging with key customers and stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead.”
Dairy market access
Elsewhere on the Saudi leg of his trade mission to the Gulf Region, Minister McConalogue met with global dairy giant, Almarai and premium retailer, Tamimi.
Almarai has Irish roots dating back to its inception. It has over 60% of the domestic Saudi market of fresh dairy produce.
Furthermore, it uses ingredients from Irish dairy and food companies in its foodservice offering.
Tamimi has over 80 stores across Saudi Arabia and is regarded as one of the leading premium retailers in the region.
It already stocks Irish dairy produce with an expressed desire to expand on this.