Irish beef, lamb to hit shelves in S'pore as Ireland looks to become strong food trade partner

Irish products were on display at the Ireland pavilion at the FHA-Food & Beverage trade show at the Singapore Expo from Monday to Thursday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Ducks sourced from Ireland are widely available at many restaurants across Singapore, but the next product from the island nation to find its way on supermarket shelves and dining tables here could be Irish livestock such as beef and lamb.

While already available at top-tier restaurants and via e-commerce platforms RedMart and foodpanda, Irish beef and lamb were, for the first time this week, made available in the retail sector here at premium meat butcher Ryan's Grocery in Bukit Timah.

The push for these products to hit the shelves here comes off the back of a trade mission to South-east Asia and Japan led by Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Mr Charlie McConalogue.

As Singapore looks to continue diversifying its food sources, Ireland can potentially be an even stronger partner for the country, said Mr McConalogue, speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of international food and beverage trade show FHA-Food & Beverage.

The trade show was held at Singapore Expo from Monday to Thursday and Irish products were on display at the Ireland pavilion, which was among 2,000 exhibitors from 56 countries and regions this year. Producers from the country included ABP food group, Irish Country Meats and John Stone Fine Foods.

Earlier this week, Bord Bia, or Ireland's Food Board, announced an ambitious new three-year strategy outlining a target of €800 million ($1.1 billion) in Irish food and drink exports to South-east Asia by 2025, led by the dairy and meat sectors.

Last year, export figures stood at €535 million - a 25 per cent increase from 2020. These export figures were led by dairy and dairy ingredients (€314 million), beef (€76 million) and pork (€76 million).

Mr McConalogue noted that like Singapore, Ireland has a similar population size of five million.

"But we have a very productive agricultural sector and we produce enough food for about 30 million people... therefore, we see real opportunity to build our relationships in the region working with our partners already in Singapore, with an understanding of the priority of Singaporean national policy," he said.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food, and diversification is a key strategy to ensure its food security.

"We also know that Singapore is a very discerning consumer, a very discerning market, and one of the international cities or countries in relation to food culture and food trends... and for that reason, very influential in the region," he added.

He also said that Ireland's national sustainability programme, Origin Green, will resonate particularly well with Singaporean consumers and retailers.

Ireland is a farm-based and grass-based food producing nation, less reliant on fluctuating grain and feed prices which are a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Ireland's Food Board announced an ambitious new three-year strategy outlining a target of €800 million ($1.1 billion) in Irish food and drink exports to South-east Asia by 2025, led by the dairy and meat sectors. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr McConalogue added that as part of Origin Green, fertiliser use is being gradually reduced, so as to produce food sustainably and productively, while reducing emissions in the process.

"We believe that the sustainability credentials and the unique capacity of our country to produce food in a sustainable way is going to also be something that connects with the consumer," he said.

In the coming months, a new campaign will also focus on promoting Irish beef, pork, poultry and lamb in the Singapore food sector.

While most of Ireland's meat exports to Singapore used to come in frozen, with the advent of new launches in the high-end food service, some of the meat will also be air-flown in temperature-controlled conditions.

As for reaching out to consumers and making Irish produce accessible, Mr McConalogue cited the success of TungLok Group's restaurant chain Duckland, which uses ducks from Silver Hill Farm in Ireland.

He said: "We look at the experience with Irish duck, and the path that (president and chief executive of TungLok Group) Andrew Tjioe has carved out with the Tung Lok restaurant chain and the development of new Duckland restaurants, which has increased the awareness of Irish duck among Singaporean consumers.

"By bringing the food to the market, by letting Singapore experience it, we can grow its popularity and grow the level of trade that we do."

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