Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry today received a major boost as pork exports to Australia officially got the green light with full health certification from the Australian government.

The announcement comes after Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and its Australian counterpart – the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) – agreed a new veterinary health certificate for the export of Northern Ireland pork to Australia.

Opening new markets

Deputy chief veterinary officer Dr. Perpetua McNamee said the new certificate announcement was a “significant boost” to the local industry.

She said: “DAERA continues to invest much time and energy into opening new markets to expand the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.

This approval to export pork represents a tangible outcome in DAERA’s long-term global engagement strategy and also represents achievement in securing access to one of the new markets outlined in the Going for Growth initiative.

DAWR assessed the nature of official controls and supervision provided by the Food Standards Agency and DAERA veterinary services here to see if these were high enough to meet Australia’s exacting biosecurity requirements.

The assessment included a desk audit, based on information provided by DAERA, and a verification visit by three Australian veterinary officers to Northern Ireland in April 2016. DAWR officials compiled a detailed report which recommended the commencement of trade in pork.

A lengthy process

In December 2017, DAWR announced the new market access for pork products from Northern Ireland and stated that trade could commence once health certification had been agreed.

Hammering out the text of the certificate was the final stage in a lengthy negotiation process for officials in Belfast and Canberra and enables pork exports to commence immediately for food businesses that meet the biosecurity and food safety standards required by Australia.

Deirdre McIvor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Pork and Bacon Forum, welcomed the deal as another positive step for the pork industry in Northern Ireland.

Addressing seasonality

She said: “I’m delighted that we have secured approval to ship to the Australian market, just weeks after the news was announced that trade commenced between Northern Ireland and China.

“This further underpins the NI pork industry’s export development. It addresses seasonal aspects in trade with particular interest in the first quarter of the year, the Australian summer.

Export markets are vital to achieving carcase balance and as an industry we are proactively looking at new opportunities across the world.

“Our industry looks forward to developing this new relationship, which has the potential to not only secure jobs and employment across Northern Ireland, but also to enhance opportunities across the sector.”