Visit to raise Irish access to U.S. market

Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, is in the U.S. this week for a seven-day day "direct investment and trade mission" organized by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish food board, Bord Bia, and his department.

During the visit, Minister Coveney will have a series of meetings with U.S. Secretary for Agriculture Tom Vilsack and what a release described as "key influencers on agricultural matters in the U.S. Senate" with whom Coveney will raise the issue of access for high quality Irish beef and sheep meat to the U.S. market.

Minister Coveney will also meet with leading multinational food and drinks companies, representatives of Irish companies operating in the sector in the U.S., and members of the wider Irish diaspora who are active in the food and drinks industry.

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Said a statement: "This visit reflects the importance which the government attaches to its economic and trade relationships with the U.S., and is part of a broad long term strategy to promote increased foreign direct investment from the U.S. in the food and drinks sector, and to further develop trade links."

"Minister Coveney himself said: "The Irish food industry has developed into a sophisticated, outward looking and dynamic sector and a number of Irish owned companies have a significant presence in the U.S. International food and drink companies have also established important businesses in Ireland and there is significant potential to increase this figure, in particular from the U.S. In terms of exports, the value of Irish food and drink exports to the U.S. was US$580 million in 2011, an increase of 16.6 percent over 2010 and there is significant potential for growth."

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The minister pointed in particular to what he said were the tremendous opportunities for grass fed Irish beef and sheep meat in the U.S. market.

"This is why I want to raise the question of market as a priority with Secretary Vilsack and with key members of the Senate Agriculture Committee," he said.

"Ministerial visits to important and strategic international trading partners form a key part of our strategy to further develop our trade and investment links with U.S. food and drinks companies. I am confident that this visit, which draws on the expertise of Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland, will facilitate further trade opportunities and play a major role in building sustainable investment and jobs in our economy," the minister added.

The visit comes against the backdrop of some impressive statistics. Ireland exports food and drink to 170 countries. It the 4th largest net exporter of beef in the world. Ireland produces ten percent of global infant formula and fifty percent of all global cream liqueur. Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirit category on the world market.