Saudi Arabia lifts age restrictions on Irish beef imports

SAUDI ARABIA – The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has lifted its current restriction on the 30 months age limit for Irish cattle slaughtered for export into the Kingdom.

The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue met with the leadership of the SFDA in Riyadh where agreement in principle was reached.

Further technical engagement will now take place to complete the formalities to confirm the expanded access.

Minister McConalogue has said that he also secured SFDA’s commitment to further technical engagement on sheep meat access, and raised the possibility of poultry meat access in the future.

“Following a constructive meeting with the SFDA, I’m pleased to report that the requirement for all beef exported to Saudi Arabia to be from animals under 30 months has now been lifted.

“While the necessary formal exchanges remain to be completed, it is welcome news and comes following detailed engagement with the Saudi competent authorities by my department, with support from the Embassy of Ireland in Riyadh and the agricultural attache for the Gulf region,” Minister McConalogue said following the meeting with the SFDA CEO, Dr. Hisham bin Saad Aljadhey.

He revealed that Ireland’s food exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia amounted to almost €100 million (USD113,566,000) last year, dominated by dairy products.

“However, I see the market as one with growth potential, especially for Irish beef. I met with retail and food service customers this week in Riyadh and each expressed a strong desire to purchase more Irish products in the time ahead,” he said.

Sustainability of Irish beef

The Minister explained that 70% of the Saudi population is under the age of 30 with a demand for quality, and a growing interest in the link between health and good nutritious food.

“Irish beef is synonymous with quality, sustainability and safety in the Gulf Region, and I am confident that the door will soon be open for a wider range of Irish beef access to the Saudi market,” McConalogue said.

He mentioned that Ireland’s Food Vision 2030 strategy, and its integrated, food systems approach, was of considerable interest in both government and business engagements this week; as was the role of Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI) in sharing Irish agri-food expertise with international partners.

“Irish beef is synonymous with quality, sustainability and safety in the Gulf Region."

Charlie McConalogue,Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Tweet

Ailish Forde, Director of Global Business at Bord Bia welcomed the success of the Saudi Arabia engagement noting that Saudi Arabia represents considerable opportunity for the Irish food sector.

“The outcomes from the ministerial engagement this week are really positive, giving us further opportunities to a market with 35 million consumers. Bord Bia research illustrates the extent to which these consumers are interested in quality, natural and sustainably produced food. We look forward to engaging with key customers and stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead,” she added.

In the year 2000, Saudi Arabia banned Irish beef imports over upsurge of BSE in Europe. Following an on-the-spot examination of the rigorous controls applied by Ireland, the Kingdom re-opened the market in 2007, a testament of the excellent standards of food safety in Ireland.

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