The announcement that the UK has received approval to export beef to the Philippines has been hailed as a "major boost" for the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland.

News of the approval - which was announced by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) - was welcomed by Northern Ireland's Chief Veterinary Officer, Robert Huey.

He said: “I am delighted that the Philippines has granted approval for Northern Ireland plants to export beef to their markets.

I look forward to our exports being able to commence shortly, once Export Health Certificates have been agreed between DEFRA and officials in the Philippines.

“This welcome step follows concerted efforts by DAERA’s Veterinary Service Animal Health Group over the past few years, working closely with DEFRA colleagues in London and Manila to negotiate approval, and with the industry in Northern Ireland - which hosted inward inspection visits by Filipino veterinary officials."

This approval for Northern Ireland is testament to the rigorous standards that are in place to produce high-quality, safe and wholesome meat, Huey continued.

A clear emphasis on traceability is placed at the heart of the North's production and processing, he added.

A market worth around £34 million

The opening of the new export market will be worth around £34 million (€37.6 million) to the UK beef industry over the next five years, according to DEFRA.

As it stands the UK currently has approval from the Filipino authorities to export pork, lamb and poultry; however, the UK beef industry has been lobbying to gain access to the beef market.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland continues to invest significant time and energy into opening new markets in order to expand the agri-food industry, Huey said.

This approval to export beef represents a further achievement in line with the 'Going for Growth' initiative, he added.

This is further good news for our beef exporters who can now trade with the lowest level status available for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

"Northern Ireland’s risk status was recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in May 2017 and formally endorsed by the European Union last month, allowing exporters to take full advantage of the new trading opportunities it offers," he concluded.