Northern Ireland beef producers are to receive a 1.3m cash injection, replicating the 8m announced for English livestock farmers in October 2005.

Most of the money – 1.2m – will feed into a Beef Market Restoration programme, which will run for three years and aims to boost consumer confidence in beef after the reintroduction of over-30-month beef into the human food chain.

It will also help build new market opportunities after the end of the date-based export scheme (DBES) and the resumption of normal beef exporting sometime next year.

A further 75,000 is also being made available as Northern Ireland’s share of the proposed Beef Better Returns programme, intended to promote profit maximisation in the beef industry.

“Beef producers and processors will benefit from a substantial programme of activity over the next three years, which goes beyond the work being undertaken in England through the Red Meat Industry Forum,” said Northern Ireland agriculture minister Jeff Rooker.

But prospects of an early return of UK beef to normal export markets appear to be slipping.

Brussels sources say a proposal to end DBES is not now expected from the EU Commission until January, two months later than originally forecast by DEFRA.