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U.S. allows imports of Irish beef, first EU shipments in 17 years

Dublin/Brussels | Reuters — Ireland has become the first European Union country allowed to export beef to the U.S., 17 years after Washington banned EU imports over BSE.

This follows a successful inspection by U.S. authorities of Ireland’s beef production system completed in July, the Irish agriculture department said on Monday, after the ban on EU imports was formally lifted in March.

“This isn’t just a new market, it’s the highest value market in the world now. I’d be very disappointed if we weren’t selling somewhere between 50 and 100 million euros worth of beef into the U.S. this year,” Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said in an interview with national broadcaster RTE.

The U.S., the world’s top buyer of beef, banned imports from the EU in 1998 following a BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) epidemic that spread from Britain to mainland Europe.

The latest U.S. decision clears the way for Irish authorities to approve individual beef plants to export to the U.S., the Irish government said.

It did not give a date for when beef exports to the U.S. might resume, but said it would step up work with Irish beef plants so the trade could start as soon as possible.

A report on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s audit of Ireland’s beef slaughter inspection system, obtained by Reuters, concluded that Ireland had “consistently and effectively implemented a beef slaughter inspection system that satisfies all criteria for equivalence with the U.S. system.”

The EU’s executive Commission urged the U.S. to act quickly to extend the approval to the rest of the 28-nation bloc.

“This announcement sends an important and positive signal to the other EU member states who have requested the U.S. to re-establish access to the U.S. beef market,” it said in a statement.

– Reporting for Reuters by Adrian Croft, Padraic Halpin, Siddharth Cavale and Theopolis Waters.

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