Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said that lifting the US ban on sheepmeat exports from the EU paves the way for full market access for Irish sheepmeat.

Minister McConalogue said: “This announcement represents the removal of a major impediment to access to the US market.

"We will now engage with US authorities on the next steps to full access and to ensure that Irish sheepmeat exports to this valuable market will be able to commence as soon as possible."

This, he said, is an important recognition of the hard work sheep farmers carry out in producing a top-quality product.

Minister of State for new market development Martin Heydon said that to ensure Ireland is well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity in a timely manner, a number of important actions have been taken over the last few years.

The key steps included:

  • In September 2017, the US Competent Authority conducted an onsite audit of Ireland’s meat inspection system, including sheepmeat.
  • In May 2018, the report of that audit was finalised and detailed discussion followed towards securing equivalency for Ireland's sheepmeat inspection system.
  • In April 2019, the US Competent Authority notified DAFM that it was reinstating the equivalence of Ireland’s sheepmeat inspection system. A focus on the key importance of this issue was also maintained at both ministerial and official level meeting on both trade missions to the US and incoming visits, and through the Embassy of Ireland in Washington.
  • US consumption growing

    According to the Department, sheepmeat is a niche product in the US, accounting for a small but growing percentage of total meat consumption, with an increase of 2% to 3% seen annually.

    Total annual sheepmeat imports have increased from 75,000t in 2010 to an estimated 134,000t in 2020 and are expected to hold steady through to 2025.