The US department of agriculture has lifted its ban on meat and live animal imports from Northern Ireland, accepting that it has a lower foot and mouth risk.

Initially, the USA put a ban on all imports of UK meat and live animals, following the confirmation of two cases of foot and mouth in Surrey on 3 August.

But, following assurances from Northern Ireland officials that it was different to the rest of Great Britain, the USDA has now given the green light to livestock and meat from the province.

Agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew welcomed the lifting of the restriction. “I am confident that this decision is a direct result of our decisive action on 3 August, when we immediately prohibited the importation of all FMD susceptible livestock from Britain. This is a positive result for local industry.”

Ulster Farmers Union president Kenneth Sharkey said; “This is another step towards normality for the industry.

“The foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey has highlighted the potential trade problems that can arise.  Trade restrictions can have an immediate severe financial impact on our agri-food industry and economy.  We hope the entire UK industry can return to normality as soon as possible”.