23 May 1997

Beef ban end

– optimism…

FARM minister Jack Cunningham has rejected claims that the UKs beef export ban is likely to be in place for the next two years.

Speaking after talks in Brussels this week with EU consumer affairs commissioner Emma Bonino, Dr Cunningham said the forecast was an ADAS view, which he did not endorse.

He said he was "cautiously optimistic" over the prospects for a lifting of the ban. But he was concerned over the slow rate of slaughtering under the selective cull adding that government would speed-up progress.

Welcoming EU farm commissioner Franz Fischlers plans for an EU-wide ban on specified bovine material Dr Cunningham said he could not accept a situation where more stringent requirements were placed on UK products and not on imported beef which was flooding onto the UK market.

And in an opening statement to the farm council meeting Dr Cunningham told farm ministers that his number one priority was to meet the needs of consumers.

But he added that the UK had two important priorities within the farm council – a lifting on the ban on British beef exports, in line with the Florence agreement and reform of the CAP.

which the prime minister had him to actively pursue.

&#8226 Northern Ireland is in a better position that the rest of the UK to fulfill the requirements of the certified herd scheme according to prime minister Tony Blair.

During a visit to the Balmoral Show, he said he was fully aware of the importance of the beef industry in Northern Ireland and the desparate need to get exports restarted. And the certified herd scheme was one way forward that could bring early cheer to the province.