Ireland will be able to significantly increase its beef exports to the US following an agreement between the two countries that could be worth millions of euro annually to the industry here.

RTÉ News understands that the US authorities have agreed to allow Ireland become the first EU member state in more than 15 years to export manufacturing beef there.

This is beef that is typically used in burgers and processed foods, and almost one million tonnes of it is imported by the US every year.

Exports of Irish beef to the US in 2015 were estimated at over €14m and today's announcement is set to considerably increase that figure.

This agreement follows a year of intensive works between the Department of Agriculture and its counterpart in the US.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said the US market is a potentially huge prize, given the size of the market and the growing demand for premium grass-fed beef.

The minister said recent events like Brexit have highlighted the importance of diversifying into international beef markets.

The Department of Agriculture can now begin approving beef plants who want to export this beef to the US.

IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the announcement, saying: "It is very important that real delivery is made on accessing new markets for Irish beef, particularly in light of the recent Brexit outcome.

"A lot more work needs to be done in getting more beef plants approved for export to the US," he added. 

Meanwhile, Meat Industry Ireland said the approval "is an endorsement of our processing, quality and control standards in Ireland and comes after significant effort over the last year".