Written Answers. - Beef Markets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

88 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of overseas beef markets currently available; and the areas in which competition is most likely to impact. [19494/03]

Ireland exports significant quantities of beef to all member states of the EU while currently Russia is the main third country market. Other markets open to Irish beef include Cyprus, Malta, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Egypt although the latter is not taking commercial quantities of Irish beef. My Department, together with An Bord Bia, continues to make intensive efforts to re-open the other markets which have imposed restrictions on the import of Irish beef.

Consumption in EU markets has now recovered following the last BSE crisis. There is potential for Irish beef exports to those markets to continue to increase. The UK market, in particular as a destination for Irish beef, has recorded huge growth during the past two years and it is likely to remain strong this year. Last year exports to the UK amounted to some 250,000 tonnes. Markets in France, Netherlands, Italy and Sweden also remain strong. After the UK, Russia is the single most important market for Irish beef having taken some 83,000 tonnes in 2002 and it is anticipated that exports there in 2003 will continue to perform strongly.

There has always been strong competition on international beef markets but I am confident that Irish beef will continue to perform well provided we produce a high quality product which offers the maximum food safety guarantees to consumers.