Domestic Economy

Irish Agrifood Trade Mission in Iran

Irish Agrifood Trade Mission in Iran Irish Agrifood Trade Mission in Iran

An Irish delegation comprising officials of the country’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and representatives of state-agency Bord Bia as well as 17 food companies were expected to arrive in Iran over the weekend for a three-day visit.

According to the Irish newspaper The Sunday Business Post, the visit is aimed at increasing Ireland’s share in the Iranian food market following the removal of western sanctions against the Islamic Republic in mid-January.

This will be Ireland’s first trade mission to Iran after the lifting of western sanctions.

Bord Bia is Ireland’s trade development body promoting the sale of Irish food and horticulture products abroad.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is part of the government of Ireland and is led by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney.

The Irish delegates are planning to meet senior officials of Iran’s Agriculture Ministry to discuss trade opportunities for Irish beef, sheep meat and dairy in particular, according to The Irish Farmers Journal.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia, said the lifting of international sanctions on Iran opens the way for Irish food exporters to explore trading opportunities in the second largest economy in the Middle East.

“As the economy grows and demand for premium food products outstrips domestic supply, Iran is looking to countries like Ireland to supply high quality, safe and sustainably produced food,” he said.

During the visit, Bord Bia plans to facilitate one-to-one meetings between 100 targeted Iranian food buyers and Irish exporters as the next step in building new trading ties.

“While challenges still exist for Irish companies supplying the market, we will work with them during this visit to explore new openings and ensure that as impediments to trade recede, Irish exporters can access the market early, build fruitful relationships and grow their businesses in tandem with economic growth,” Cotter said.

“While the main focus of this visit will be on the dairy and prepared foods, where the most immediate opportunities are perceived to exist, I expect it will pave the way for future direct engagement across other sectors.”

  Slow Response

Irish Exporters Association CEO Simon McKeever criticized the government in February for its slow response to the lifting of sanctions.

He said: “What are we doing about Iran? We’re the only EU country that doesn’t have a [trade] mission [to Iran]… We see opportunities for Irish companies out there in the food and drink sector and dairy sector, engineering, ICT ... We see it in automotive and in the aircraft leasing sector … There are huge opportunities out there; 80 million people in the country in the center of an economic region of about 300 million. So we do think the Irish Embassy in Iran should be reopened.”

Commenting on the visit, Coveney said, “Trade missions are an important element of our agrifood strategy as we seek to diversify the number of available markets for Irish exporters of food and agri-services. This mission will be key to reintroducing Irish companies to the Iranian market and buyers, and will no doubt pave the way for greater collaboration with Irish exporters.”

Although food did not form part of western sanctions against Iran, issues surrounding financial transactions, dwindling foreign currency reserves and a drop in consumer sentiment as the economy contracted during that period made for a difficult trading environment in Iran.

Ireland’s food and beverage exports to Iran in 2015 amounted to €3.6 million consisting mainly of juices, butter and prepared foods, according to Bord Bia.

While exports of dairy produce, including infant formula, were a regular feature in the past, this trade has suffered in recent years. Trade began in Irish beef in April 2012 and the department of agriculture has been in talks to open the sheep meat trade.

Representatives from Abbeyfield Foods, Arrabawn, Butlers, Dairygold, Glanbia Ingredients and Glanbia Consumer Foods, Glenstal Foods, Green Isle, Kerry Group, Lakeland Dairies, LacPatrick Dairies Ltd., Musgraves, Ornua, Pan Euro Foods, Redbank Food Company, Synergy, Wolfland Ltd., SFSI, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Bord Bia are part of the delegation.