Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has welcomed the announcement that the US authorities have approved access for Irish manufacturing beef to the US market.

However, it has also highlighted that trade won’t commence immediately.

Since the re-opening of the US market in early 2015, access had been limited to intact beef cuts and today’s announcement will extend access to cover beef for supply to the manufacturing industry in the US, particularly for burger production and processed beef products.

According to MII, the approval is an endorsement of Ireland’s processing, quality and control standards in Ireland and comes after significant effort over the last year.

MII, in conjunction with exporters, will now engage with the Department of Agriculture on the next steps required to clear the way for actual trade to take place.

“This will not happen immediately as there are a number of preliminary technical steps to be completed.

“Currently, six Irish processing plants have USDA approval and these will be the first to progress with this additional approval for manufacturing beef and hopefully the approval of other plants will be advanced,” it said.

In the meantime, MII also said that those approved exporters will be assessing the market for opportunity.

MII says the US market is a major importer of beef for grinding and while the peak prices witnessed during 2014 and 2015 have passed, full access to this market is important in terms of future potential.

“Maximising full market access for Irish beef and other meats in international markets has been at the forefront of our agenda. It is critical to optimising market return, to underpinning the growth ambition of the meat sector and is all the more relevant in the context of the uncertainty around Brexit,” it said.

Exports of Irish beef to the US in Quarter 1 2016 were just under 700t with a value of €6m was exported, according to the Department of Agriculture. In 2015, Irish beef exports to the US were worth approximately €11m.

This is significantly short of the €50-100m value the Minister for Agriculture had predicted was possible in the first year, when he launched Irish beef on the US market.