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Coveney Meets Algerian Minister on Irish Agri Food Trade Mission

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Simon Coveney TD, travelled to Algiers this weekend to meet his counterpart, Mr. Rachid Benaissa, the Algerian Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development and to promote sales of Irish dairy and meat products. Algeria has a population of 35 million and has significant potential as a market for Irish food products. The Mission includes Irish Dairy Board senior management, Bord Bia and senior departmental officials.

Minister Coveney said that it was important to build contacts at Governmental and senior official level to facilitate further development of the trading relationship between Ireland and Algeria, and to raise the profile of Irish companies and their products in the region.

The two Ministers had a wide ranging and constructive discussion on the development of the agri food sectors in Ireland and Algeria and on building on the existing trading relationship between the two countries. They also discussed a number of specific issues relating to trade in dairy products and beef.

In relation to Irish beef, Minister Coveney pressed his counterpart to review the current requirement to test all animals over 30 months of age, in the light of an upward adjustment in the EU testing requirement to 72 months. Algeria was a significant market for Irish beef during the 1990s, with exports of 20,000 tonnes per annum. Trade at present however, is somewhat constrained by an Algerian requirement to test all animals over 30 months of age for BSE. Minister Coveney highlighted the high quality of Irish beef, and the extremely high standards of public health control which underpin production systems in Ireland. Speaking after the meeting, he said:

"My engagement yesterday with Minister Benaissa was extremely constructive. It is part of a continuing mission to raise the profile of Ireland and Irish food products in countries such as Algeria, which has an expanding population and an increasing demand for food. In so far as supporting our critically important agri food industry is concerned, I hope that yesterday's meeting can help to build the kind of confidence in the quality of our produce that can generate further business for Irish food companies, and in relation to beef, that this kind of confidence can form the basis of an early review of the testing age limit".

Following his meeting with Minister Benaiisa, Mr. Coveney travelled on to Oran, Algeria's second city, to open a new representative office, and a state of the art milk powder packaging plant for the Irish Dairy Board Kerrygold brand.

The Minister also met with Mr Abdel Malek Boudiaf, the Regional Governor of Oran which is a key centre for administration and development in Algeria. Algeria is already an important market for Irish dairy products and has significant growth potential. It is a significant net importer of milk and milk products, and dairy consumption at present is approximately 3.5 billion kg per annum, and growing at a rate of 8% per annum. In 2010, exports of Irish dairy products to Algeria were valued at almost €38 million.

Speaking at the opening of the Dairy Board's representative office, the Minister said:

"Opening this facility in Algeria demonstrates a commitment to developing the enormous market potential for Irish dairy products in Algeria and elsewhere in North Africa. It shows ambition and foresight and is consistent with the 50% dairy expansion target in Food Harvest 2020. I hope that in the fullness of time the bridges that the iconic Kerrygold brand can build in this region, will be a foundation for further trade development for the Irish Agri Food sector generally".

The Minister also launched a new Irish /Algerian joint venture, which was forged through a strong personal friendship between Mr. Zemri Behaddi, a prominent Algerian entrepreneur, and Dublin man Kevin O'Boyle. The new venture "Bia Suparette" is a unique retail outlet in Oran which combines Algerian business acumen with quality Irish design, project management and refrigeration equipment, and builds on Ireland's reputation in food retail for fresh, hygienic and quality products.

Mr. Coveney also spent time in Oran meeting with a number of key Algerian traders and business contacts, with a view to raising their awareness of Ireland as a source of high quality food.

Commenting afterwards, the Minister said:

"This visit is part of a continuing mission to raise the profile of Ireland as a producer of high quality food products underpinned by the best food safety systems in the world. Algeria has a population of 35 million which is growing faster than Ireland's. It can be a key market for Irish food producers and potentially a gateway to other markets in this region. This is the kind of potential we must unlock if we are to realise our target under Food Harvest 2020 of growing our exports by 40% over the next decade. It is hugely encouraging to see the progress being made by Irish companies in Algeria and I felt that it was critically important to provide such support as I could to their efforts here, and to forge the kind of links at political and official level that are necessary to facilitate a growing trading relationship."

Date Released: 26 September 2011