South Korea has given the green light to Irish beef, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

The announcement that South Korea is now open to Irish beef exports was made this Wednesday by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State with responsibility for market development Martin Heydon.

Minister McConalogue said South Korea was designated as a priority market for Irish beef and years of work have gone into gaining access.

He added that last October’s trade mission to Seoul is now “bearing fruit”, with a further visit planned in September to strengthen this relationship.

“The good news that the final stages have been completed and exports can commence was received today [Wednesday 15 May] after a detailed audit last month by the Korean authorities of Irish plants.

“With a population of over 50 million people, there is huge potential for Irish agri-food exporters to grow their footprint in the sophisticated Korean market.

“For beef, the door has now been opened and there is a real opportunity for the industry to build on,” Minister McConalogue said.

Family farms

Speaking on the access announcement, Minister Heydon said this development will positively “impact on family farms and employment in rural Ireland”.

Minister Heydon added that expanding market access for Irish beef is crucial for the sector’s development.

“Korea brings the number of markets for Irish beef to over 70 and we are actively working on others, including Vietnam and Thailand."

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue meet with Mr So Byung Hoon, member of the National Assembly and chair of the agriculture committee on the whole government trade mission to Korea in October 2023.

“Every new international market increases the economic sustainability of our beef sector,” he said.

Plants

Seven Irish beef plants have been approved for export access initially.

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They are ABP, Clones, Co Monaghan; ABP, Cahir, Co Tipperary; Liffey Meats, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan; Kepak, Clonee, Co Meath; Slaney Foods, Bunclody, Co Wexford; Dawn Meats, Grannagh, Co Waterford and Dawn Meats, Charleville, Co Cork.

All edible beef cuts are eligible, including bones produced from cattle aged under 30 months at the time of slaughter and offal, other than specified material as defined by the EU and the South Korea.

Large market

South Korean people are the highest per-capita consumers of meat in Asia, 79kg/person. Of this 17kg is beef.

Furthermore, beef consumption is predicted to grow by 1% year-on-year over the next four years.

South Korea is only 35% self-sufficient in beef. In 2020, the country imported almost 500,000t of beef.

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Some 92% came from the US and Australia, with Irish exports now aiming to secure a slice of this market.

Irish food and beverage exports to South Korea were worth over €47.2m last year, up from €36.3m in 2019. These were primarily dairy, seafood and pigmeat.