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Minister Coughlan hopeful on progress on Saudi Arabian and UAE beef markets

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today announced that arrangements were now being made for a visit to Ireland by a team of experts from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to inspect Irish food safety and animal health controls with a view to reopening the Saudi beef market. This follows the recent successful trade mission to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) led by An Taoiseach, in which she participated. As part of this visit, the Minister met with the Saudi Agriculture Minister and with the Saudi Minister for Commerce.

Announcing the initiative the Minister stated that the discussions she had on Irish food exports in general and beef exports in particular were "very positive". The visit by Saudi officials will, she continued, "facilitate a clearer understanding of our high standards and controls in food safety and animal health".

The Minister is hopeful that a successful visit will lead to reopening of the market there for Irish beef.

The Minister also visited the UAE. Although that market is open, only beef from animals under 12 months is currently eligible. The objective is to have this age limit raised to at least 30 months. Describing her talks with the UAE Minister for Agriculture and his officials as "very fruitful", the Minister stated that she is pursuing this issue with the authorities in the UAE.

With record beef exports into the high-value Continental market achieved in 2006, the Minister said, "this is a clear recognition of an acceptance of the stringent controls in food safety and animal health obtaining in Ireland as well as of the very high quality of Irish beef".

While over 90% of Irish beef production was exported to EU markets in 2006, it was most important to our beef industry to have the greatest number of high quality world markets.

7 February, 2007

Date Released: 07 February 2007