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HomeFarming NewsBan on sheepmeat exports to US lifted
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Ban on sheepmeat exports to US lifted

The US has lifted its ban on sheepmeat exports from the EU.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has welcomed this “important step” towards opening the US market to sheepmeat exports.

US sheepmeat ban

In a statement this evening (Thursday, December 2nd, 2021), the minister said:

“This announcement represents the removal of a major impediment to access to the US market.”

“This development is very significant and paves the way for full market access for Irish sheepmeat.”

“My department, in collaboration with the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, has worked hard over several years to lift the ban.”

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He said the DAFM will now engage with US authorities on the next steps to full access.

It aims to ensure that Irish sheepmeat exports to this “valuable” market can commence as soon as possible.

“This is an important recognition of the hard work our sheep farmers carry out in producing a top-quality product.”

Minister of State for new market development, Martin Heydon TD, commented:

“Having recently met with a delegation from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this market access for sheepmeat is welcome news for our sheep sector.”

“In preparation for this key step, and to ensure Ireland was well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity in a timely manner, a number of important actions have been taken by my department, in cooperation with Bord Bia and industry, over several years.”

He listed the following steps:

  • September 2017: US Competent Authority conducted an onsite audit of Ireland’s meat inspection system, including sheepmeat.
  • May 2018: It finalised the audit report. A “detailed” discussion followed towards securing equivalency for Ireland’s sheepmeat inspection system.
  • April 2019: US Competent Authority notified DAFM that it was reinstating the equivalence of Ireland’s sheepmeat inspection system.

According to the DAFM, sheepmeat is a niche product in the US, accounting for a small but “growing” percentage of total meat consumption.

Consumption has been growing by between 2-3% annually for some time, reaching 194,000 tonnes (cwe) in 2020. Domestic US sheepmeat production stood at circa  63,000 tonnes (cwe) in 2020.

Total annual sheepmeat imports have increased from 75,000 tonnes in 2010 to an estimated 134,000 tonnes in 2020.

According to the DAFM, they are expected to hold “steady” through to 2025.

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