THE NATIONAL Beef Association has warned that unfounded talk of delays in the repeal of the Over Thirty Month rule will encourage imports of beef beyond the expected Sept 2005 return of domestic cows to the commercial market.

The NBA has said that uninformed predictions of a likely failure in DEFRA‘s efforts to secure an early autumn start for the return of post-August 1996 cattle are bad news.

They could undermine the price of the first cows offered for sale and deprive farmers of a much needed lift in income.

“We do not understand the shortsightedness of this dismal chorus,” said NBA vice-chairman Frank Momber.

“DEFRA has set itself a daunting timetable if the target of a Sept start is to be achieved but has stuck to its task and so far, despite repeated predictions to the contrary, is on track to achieve it,” he added.

“The hurdle of the FVO inspection mission in June has still to be negotiated and it will not be until a positive report is in hand and there is a successful conclusion to the FSA‘s board meeting in July that DEFRA will be able to nominate a start day.”

“However, there is no reason for the industry to anticipate bad news, every reason for it to look forward to good, and it should give up looking on the black side because it is only creating a financial rod for its own back.”

And the NBA is keen for domestic traders to be lined up and ready to go well before the green light is switched on.

“We need to be focused, not negative, and be aware that DEFRA will nominate a start date as early as it possibly can,” said Mr Momber.

“If our cow beef processors are pawing the ground and ready to sell then an average deadweight price of around 120p for cows will be immediately realistic.”

“But if there is more unnecessary noise from the pessimists some of them could be distracted and not be as ready as farmers would like when the gun for the release of cow beef on the market goes off.”