Minister Cowen welcomes re-opening of Egyptian Market for Irish Beef
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., welcomed today's announcement by the Egyptian authorities that the restrictions on the exportation of certain cuts of Irish beef have been lifted with immediate effect. The Minister said that the announcement is further recognition of the high quality and safety of Irish beef. The decision clears the way for the full implementation of the Egyptian Ministerial decree of October 2001 which re-opened the Egyptian market for Irish beef.
“Before the introduction of import restrictions, Egypt was the largest market for Irish beef worldwide. I would be hopeful that a significant level of trade in beef can now resume with Egypt in the near future”, Minister Cowen said.
The lifting of these restrictions is the result of an intensive collaborative effort between the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Agriculture and Food and Bord Bia over the past two years. In June of this year, for example, a seminar on the safety of Irish food was held in Cairo. This event was very successful in illustrating the controls in place to ensure the high quality and safety of Irish beef.
“The priority given to this issue was in recognition of the importance of the beef trade to Irish agriculture. I raised the issue with the Egyptian authorities in the course of my recent visit to the Middle-East and I am very pleased that our efforts have proven successful. I would, of course, like to recall the ongoing work done by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Joe Walsh T.D. This decision will undoubtedly provide a boost to the beef industry and will help consolidate our wider trade and economic relationship with Egypt”.
Minister Cowen also said that he hoped that the decision taken by the Egyptian authorities, and the similar decision taken by Bahrain in July, would encourage other countries in the Middle East region to follow suit. During a meeting in Dublin with Ambassadors from Arab countries accredited to Ireland on 15 July, the Minister had emphasised the importance of the resumption of the beef trade in reinforcing trade and economic ties with the region.
Note for Editors:
Prior to the suspension of beef imports from the EU in 2000 because of BSE concerns, Egypt was the largest single market for Irish beef. In 1999, Ireland supplied Egypt with 157,000 tonnes (cwe – carcase weight equivalent) of beef which represented approximately 80% of its beef import requirements.
In November 2000, Egypt suspended the importation of beef from the EU because of BSE.
The Egyptian market was technically reopened to beef originating in Ireland in October 2001 following assessment by the Egyptian veterinary officials of Irish BSE control systems and the guarantees which are provided to consumers of Irish beef.
A further provision was introduced, however, beyond the terms of the Ministerial decree of October 2001, which restricted the cuts of meat eligible for the trade with Egypt. This restriction made trade commercially non-viable, even when account was taken of the increase in the EU export subsidy negotiated specifically for trade with Egypt. The effect of these restrictions was to prevent the full implementation of the 2001 agreement to allow the normalisation of the beef trade.
The restrictions also went beyond what is required by the EU and internationally and when taken with the other measures in place to guarantee the safety of Irish beef, they did not add to the guarantees already offered. Existing controls provide the highest possible level of internationally recognised guarantees to overseas as well as to domestic consumers. Since 1998, Ireland has been classified by the Scientific Steering Committee of the European Union as having the highest level of controls in place which are maintained, implemented and audited in a manner which fully prevents the recycling of any infected material in order to secure the safety of the food chain.
Minister Cowen raised the issue of access to the Egyptian market for Irish beef during his visit to Cairo on 25 June when he met with President Hosni Mubarak and with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The visit to Egypt was part of a wider visit to the region including the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon which took place between 24-29 June. The Minister also raised the beef exports issue during an annual meeting with Ambassadors from Arab countries accredited to Ireland, held in Dublin on 15 July. During the meeting Minister Cowen suggested that the resumption of the beef trade with the Middle East would be an important step in forging a closer economic relationship between Ireland and the region.