24 July 1998

Beef ban end boon – Gill

LIFTING the beef export ban will be good news for British farmers, good news for Continental producers and, above all, good news for EU consumers.

Speaking to international journalists in Brussels last week, NFU president, Ben Gill, said letting UK beef back into Europe would be a real confidence booster, showing consumers things were getting back to normal. "But further delays will simply aid the rumour mongers," he added.

The British consumer had already put beef back at the top of the Sunday menu, basing the decision on a clear understanding of the control measures in place. Continental customers should be given the chance to make the same, informed choice, he said.

Indeed, without consumer support, getting political agreement to lift the export ban – which Mr Gill believes is still on track for the autumn – would count for nothing.

As such, the NFU will present the facts to several key member states in the coming weeks to dispel the myth that the UK is "riddled from top to toe with BSE".

This process was started in Brussels last week, with Mr Gill explaining how the UK was fulfilling all five preconditions for lifting the ban as set out in the Florence agreement.

In particular, he focused on the cattle tracing system and the additional cull for calves born after Aug 1, 1996 to BSE-infected dams, included in the proposed date-based export scheme.

* EU inspectors arrived in the UK this week to assess effectiveness of the date-based scheme. The officials then have 20 days in which to prepare their report, with the UK given another 25 days in which to comment on it. The final version is unlikely to go back to the influential standing veterinary committee in Brussels until mid-September at the earliest.

Ben Gill – dispelling some of the common BSEmyths.