France has become the fourth EU Member State to gain clearance to export beef to the US market.

In January 2015, Ireland was the first Member State to gain approval to the US market. Since then it has been joined by the Netherlands, Lithuania and now, France.

A statement today, January 16, from the European Commission said that the US has announced the lifting of the embargo on imports of beef from France.

The Commission welcomes this decision which it says represents a new stage in reopening a closed market since the crisis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the 90s.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, has said that after similar decisions taken for Ireland, Lithuania and the Netherlands, the Commission welcomes the decision of the United States to authorise imports of beef from France.

This is excellent news for French producers and the Commission continues to work with all parties concerned to ensure that in the near future all Member States will have equal access to the US market.

"This decision of the United States clearly demonstrates what we can achieve by having an open and constructive relationship with one of our most important trading partners," he said.

The US market was closed to beef from the EU since January 1998, when the US introduced restrictions on imports of beef, sheep and goats, following the BSE crisis.

The volume of Irish beef shipped to the US market, as of early December, stood in the region of 3,800t since the market opened to exports in January 2015.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed said an estimated 1,800t of Irish beef was exported in 2015, valued at €14m.

“This trade will be surpassed in 2016 because 2,000t have already been exported so far this year.

"Sales are expected to increase as the trade becomes more established and trading relationships become bedded down."

Ireland received the green light to export manufacturing beef (mince) to the US market in July 2016, however no such product has been exported yet. A number of processors are seeking to be approved to export to the market.