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Coveney leads biggest ever Trade Delegation to Gulf Huge Opportunity for Agri Food and Equine Exports

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, leads a week long trade mission to the Gulf States of Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, commencing tomorrow.  

A 60-strong delegation representing a range of food and agri services companies, and key state agencies such as Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Horse Racing Ireland and its subsidiary Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, will accompany the Minister on a mission to build closer commercial linkages between Irish and local businesses, and to develop relationships with key Government Ministries and agencies, in this critically important target region for Irish exports. 

Food exports to the Gulf States amounted to almost €200 million in 2012 and Bord Bia estimates that there is potential to double that figure by 2020. Speaking before the visit, the Minister said "This visit is about further developing an already strong and mutually beneficial relationship between Ireland and the Gulf States. In particular I want to raise the profile of Ireland not only as a provider of the highest quality food and ingredients in the world, but also as a source of technical expertise and services in the agri food sector. There are strong and obvious synergies between the food security policy objectives of this region and Ireland’s Food Harvest plan for the expansion and development of its agri food sector. Almost 90% of the food consumed in this region is imported and Ireland’s strong sustainability credentials in agri food and the sector’s significant potential for expansion make it an ideal partner for Gulf countries whose demand for high food is increasing". 

During the visit, the Minister will meet his counterpart in the influential Environment and Water Ministry (HE Dr. Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad), and with the Minister for Finance and Deputy Ruler (HE Sheikh Zayed Al Maktoum) in Dubai. He will also meet with the Minister for Environment and Water (HE Ahmad Bin Amer Bin Mohammed Al Helmaidi)  in Qatar, with the Minister for Agriculture (Minister Balghunain)  in Saudi Arabia and with the Saudi Minister for Education (HH Prince Faissal Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al Saud), who has strong links to the equine industry. In addition, he will link with Irish business people operating in the region and meet with key Gulf business contacts and potential purchasers of Irish products and potential investors in the agri food, equine and finance sectors. 

The Minister also referred to the potential for business development in the agri services area, saying "Ireland's long tradition of food production has allowed it to develop expertise the areas of food quality and safety, food research, product development and production engineering. There is considerable scope for further commercial development in this area, however, and I hope that by connecting the right people and developing the right commercial relationships, we can facilitate further fruitful engagement between Irish and UAE companies in these areas". 

The strong links between this region and the Irish bloodstock industry are of course well known. The Maktoum family, the rulers of Dubai, have bloodstock interests in Ireland, extending to twenty stud farms,  and there have been recent high profile investments in stud farms in  Ireland from Sheikh Fahad Al Thani of the Qatari Royal House and Mr. Mubarak Al Naemi, Chairman of the Qatari Owners and Breeders Association. Linkages with the sport horse sector are also strong.

During his visit the Minister will meet a number of key players in the sector to explore the potential for further co-operation and development in this key sector which provides more than 17,000 jobs in Ireland. "In Ireland, the horse industry is a part of who we are, and although we are a small nation, we have a proud record of world class achievement when it comes to thoroughbred breeding. Irish bred horses occupy four of the top ten ranked places in the LONGINES World Best Racehorse Rankings, and five of the last seven European Champion two year olds were bred in Ireland, with six of them trained here. We already have a very close relationship with the Gulf States when it comes to the horse industry and I am confident that this visit will help to develop further opportunities in this area", said Minister Coveney. 

Concluding, the Minister said that he was confident that this trade mission would help Irish companies to develop the kind of positive business relationships across the Gulf States that would ultimately provide opportunities for trade and commercial development, and ultimately employment in Ireland, "This mission is about providing a platform for Irish entrepreneurs and businesses in the food, food technology and equine sectors to build positive business relationships in a region which is rich in commercial potential. I am confident that by supporting Irish business in this way we can make a significant contribution to building commercial success and ultimately ensuring that the agri food and equine sectors continue to make a vital contribution to the Irish economy".

Date Released: 25 October 2013