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Successful conclusion to weeklong visit with positive opportunities for Agri/Food Sector

- Progress on beef market access and export opportunities in US market -

Today Minister Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, concluded his weeklong trade and investment promotion trip to the US which included visiting Washington DC and Chicago for a series of both political and industry meetings.

"The US market is a hugely important market to Ireland, both in terms of Irish exports and Irish companies based here in the US. On a political level, I took the opportunity to meet with key political figures and  influencers to discuss and encourage beef access from the EU into America.

We have also reinforced the important relationships with multinational food companies here and how they perceive Ireland as a place for investment and expansion.  Of course my Department and the State agencies will continue to work on the potential for more future co-operation and partnership between Ireland and the companies we've met".

In Washington DC, the Minister held crucially important meetings on the future development of the Agri/Food sector and its potential for exports to the US. Key to this was meeting with his counterpart, US Secretary for Agriculture Tom Vilsack, on Tuesday where access for Irish beef and sheep meat imports to the US market was discussed and provided an important platform to encourage continued progress.  The Minister also met with a series of other key political figures  on this issue including Senator Pat Roberts, Senator Charles Grassley and senior USDA officials. The Minister also met with Senator Mike Johanns who is a former US Secretary of Agriculture.

Emphasis was also placed on the large Diaspora involved in the Food and Drinks industry in the US with whom the Minister met and discussed the Agri/food sector both in Ireland and the US.  A commitment was made by the Diaspora for further co-operation and identification of new strategic opportunities for Irish food in the US by the Diaspora.

In Chicago, the Minister met with a series of world leading multinational Agri/Food companies, many of whom already have a serious commitment to and investment in Ireland. He was accompanied by representatives from Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and IDA. Discussions were held around future growth opportunities within Ireland and Irish firms operating within these sectors. One of the meetings was with McDonalds who recently announced a €300m contract with Dawn meats to process up to 18,000 tonnes of Irish beef annually at its plant in Waterford.  Beam whiskey, who recently acquired Cooley Whiskey Distillery, also met the Minister.  Irish Whiskey exports were valued at €222m in 2011 a 25% increase on the previous year.  The largest export market is the US where 1.4 million cases of Irish Whiskey were sold in 2010, doubled from 5 years previously. While in Chicago the Minister also met with Irish Diaspora working in key positions in the food industry, most of whom work in Irish owned food companies exporting into the US.  The Minister took the opportunity to also meet with senior executives of the Irish Dairy Bord in Chicago to see and discuss their operations there.

The Minister's final visit was to Kerry Group which included a full tour of the 250,000 sq ft innovation centre which cost €50m to build.  Kerry now employs 24,000 worldwide and is Ireland’s largest food company with over €5 billion of turnover in over 120 countries.  The plant is an incredible success story of an Irish world leader in the dairy and food ingredients sector.

The US market is a hugely important export market for Ireland and for Irish food and drink products in particular.  Current areas of particular focus for export growth potential include the cheese and dairy ingredients sectors, Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueurs, confectionery and speciality goods including meat products.

Note of Editors

Overall Agri-Food Exports of €480 million in 2011, made up primarily of Beverages (€300m) and Dairy Products (€125m). Beverage exports are dominated by liqueurs (€139m), whiskies (€95m) and beer (€55m); Dairy Products are made up primarily of Casein (€82m) and Cheese (€28m). On a smaller scale, the categories Coffee, Tea, Cocoa & Spices (€20m), Horses (€11m) and Pigmeat (€6m) made up much of the balance.

These CSO Agri-Food export figures show growth of 17.5% in export to the US 2011, following on from a 10% increase the previous year. The USA is now the destination for circa 5% of all Irish Agri-Food Exports and is our fifth largest Agri-Food export partner

Photos below - Simon Coveney TD Minister for Agriculture Food & the Marine and Stan McCarthy CEO of Kerry  Group in Kerry's Innovation Centre in Beloit, Wisconsin, USA .

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kerryfoods552120629PR13512 - 02.07.2012

Date Released: 29 June 2012