In February 2019, officials from my Department met the Iranian ambassador to Ireland, H.E. Dr. Masoud Eslami, accompanied by his economic counsellor. A range of subjects, including agrifood exports to Iran, were addressed at the meeting. I also met the ambassador personally on 21 September 2017. Total Irish agrifood exports to Iran in 2017 were approximately €11.5 million, the majority of which, or €10.25 million, was accounted for by dairy exports. According to the CSO, 26 tonnes of beef were exported to Iran in 2017, but there have been no exports of sheepmeat to date. The role of my Department is to open up markets for the industry and it is then up to the industry, with the support of my Department and Bord Bia, to avail of these opportunities. However, the actual levels of exports will depend on a range of factors, including global supply and demand dynamics, currency fluctuations and individual customer requirements.
A veterinary health certificate for the export of beef from Ireland to Iran was agreed in March 2013 and officials from my Department participated in a successful trade mission to Iran and Turkey in April 2016. While the trade mission was primarily dairy-focused, officials had the opportunity to meet with their Iranian counterparts in order to progress and ultimately agree sheepmeat access to the Iranian market and to explore other common areas of interest. Access for sheepmeat was officially announced in October 2016. Therefore, these markets are open at present but the resumption of exports is a matter for the industry. Limited or no exports to Iran can be explained by a combination of unfavourable trading conditions, cheaper supplies of beef from Brazil and of lamb from Australia to the Iranian market and financial barriers. Work is ongoing within the EU to devise measures to overcome financial barriers to trade between the EU and Iran.