After 15 years of being banned from the U.S. beef market, Ireland announced that they are being brought back into the fold. The Agriculture Ministry for the country says it will be the first country in Europe to be permitted to export to the U.S. since they halted all imports nearly 16 years ago in response to concerns over “Mad Cow” disease.
This is a result of two years of work by officials in Ireland to regain their ability to re-enter the U.S. marketplace. The United States is the largest importer of beef in the world. Estimates of the potential financial benefit of this new relationship are conservatively projected to be over $60 million in the first year, though it is expected by some experts to be much more than that.
Simon Coveney, Agricultural Minister for Ireland, made a statement about the advantages the country would have being the first to bring European beef back across the pond. He expressed the intent to market to the large Irish-American population as a way to quickly gain as large of a market share as possible while other European countries are still locked out of the market. Although they were first to the table, now that the ban is being lifted, other countries will quickly maneuver to obtain clearance and follow suit.
Initial marketing will be key to seeing how much advantage the Irish will actually be able to take of their head start. Rumors are circulating that the U.K. may be next, possibly even in the next few months if a source in the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is to be believed.
The original source of the American moratorium on european cattle products was the outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease. With over 185,000 confirmed European Union (EU) cases, the original decision to cease importing from Europe was made, with the agreement that the stoppage would end last year. Ireland planned far enough ahead to ensure that they could meet all requirements to prove that BSE was no longer a threat in time to be the first allowed back in. Two years invested has proven to be a wise decision which they will try hard to take advantage of having made.
With Europe off of the table for 15 years, Australia has become the largest exporter of beef to he U.S. buyers. Beef prices have gone up as a result of both the limited marketplace and weather challenges at home. Ireland may be able to capitalize on the demand using a strategy of competitive pricing and appealing to the American preference for cattle raised on open-pasture, grass-feeding farms common in Ireland as opposed to the feeding lots used by many Australian producers. Those farms which are also hormone-free will have a product that is custom-made to meet a rapidly-growing demand, and may be able to carve out a customer base among these loyal buyers if they are able to gain entry into the supply chain for the high-end restaurants that cater to this crowd.
Ireland is the first beef exporter from the EU to be brought back, but they will have to press their advantage skillfully to reap the benefits. After spending a couple of years to position themselves as they have, it is reasonable to assume that they are aware of and have planned for that fact
By Jim Malone
Image courtesy of Olivier Bruchez – Flickr License