Ireland has enjoyed market access to the USA for Irish pigmeat for a number of years and a number of meat establishments are approved to produce pigmeat for export to the US. In 2016 exports of €25.4 million, or 6,360 tonnes, took place which made the USA the second largest Third Country destination for pigmeat exports after China.
As regards beef, we received a visit from the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) in 2014 which was followed by the lifting of the BSE ban in 2015. Therefore Ireland was the first EU Member State to get beef access to the USA, which is a testament to the high regard in which Irish beef is held. A total of 8 Irish plants have now been approved for the export of beef and exports of some 2,400 tonnes took place in 2016, which is an increase of 114% on the 2015 levels according to US customs data.
In July 2016 DAFM received approval to send BIFG (Beef Intended for Grinding) to the USA. This will enhance our ability to export beef to the US, where a very significant demand exists for beef that will be minced and turned into beef burgers. My Department is working with some plants that are interested in exporting non-intact beef, or BIFG to the US. Beef plants that wish to be approved to export manufacturing beef to the US must implement in full the criteria agreed with the US before this trade may commence. My Department is currently working with the interested plants on these procedures.
As regards sheepmeat, we are awaiting the publication of a small ruminant rule on TSEs by the USDA, lifting the ban on EU sheepmeat, before we can make further progress on this issue. However, in anticipation of the lifting of this ban, in August 2016 my Department submitted a detailed questionnaire, or Self Reporting Tool (SRT) on sheepmeat to the USDA. The Department has also raised the issue bilaterally with US officials and remains keen to try and progress this dossier.