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Minister Smith Opens New Bord Bia Office In New York

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today opened a new Bord Bia office in New York. The office is located in central Manhattan in the same building as the Irish Consulate, and other Government agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland and will ensure a fully joined up and synergistic relationship between all Irish Government agencies operating in the region. The Minister is leading a week-long Enterprise Ireland investment and trade promotional mission.

Speaking at the opening of the Bord Bia office, he said his visit to a number of US cities had been very productive and valuable. He said he had met at the highest level with both Irish based US companies and US Food Companies with major operations in Ireland, including some of the largest US Food Companies with the potential for further investment in Ireland. He also met with a number of smaller companies who are actively looking at Ireland as a location for new investment.

Minister Smith said that the value of Ireland-US trade could not be understated when one considers that, last year, Ireland enjoyed a healthy trade surplus for agri-food products of almost €188 million with the US. Indeed, Irish agri-food exports to the US last year were worth €440 million, of which beverages along with dairy products accounted for almost 90% of the value of Irish exports.

On Monday, Minister Smith visited with Kerry Foods, which employs approximately 22,000 people across 40 countries, including North America. The Minister also met with representatives of Glanbia who recently acquired a significant presence in the US through Optimum Nutrition, which has three operating facilities in the US. A meeting was also held with the Irish Dairy Board, which is now one of Ireland's biggest exporters and a major food distribution company in overseas markets, with a presence in the US for almost 25 years. In Chicago, Minister met with Socius Ingredients, partners to Lakeland Dairies and Synergy Flavours partners of Carbery. There is clear evidence of the internationalisation of Irish food companies and of their ability to compete with the best on the world market.

Minister Smith said there was a clear and growing confidence on the part of the US companies he met in the quality, safety and commercial potential of Irish food ingredients and in the companies producing them. The US companies were particularly impressed with the knowledge based research driven approach adopted by the Irish food sector. They expressed full confidence in the regulatory control systems in Ireland which are increasingly important in world trade and in the technical and research capabilities of Teagasc and our academic institutions.

Minister Smith said that he had found the series of meetings with very senior management from the various companies to be "positive and constructive, notwithstanding the current global economic circumstances". The Minister said that "at a time when the United States presents a significant export outlet for Irish agri-food products and US companies provide very important employment opportunities at home, visits of this nature are particularly important in understanding the challenges facing such companies as well as helping to develop new market and employment opportunities".

Specifically, on the Bord Bia initiative, the Minister said the opening of the New York office was a major step up in Ireland's presence in the US. Having operated for the past seven years out of Chicago, the Bord Bia decision to build on this by a full permanent presence in Ireland House in New York represents a strong vote of confidence in the future potential of Irish food and drink in the hugely important US market.

Date Released: 14 November 2007