17 May 2002

Beef export action calls

IF export markets for beef from Northern Ireland could be re-opened, there would be an immediate £10-15/head increase in the price for export-eligible animals, according to the Ulster Farmers Union.

No beef is being exported outside the UK at the moment because none of the provinces abattoirs is operating under the restrictive Date Based Export Scheme.

Of most concern to the beef industry in Northern Ireland is the fact that other EU member states, including the Irish Republic, have a far worse incidence of BSE but are still allowed to export.

"We want action on two fronts," says Campbell Tweed, UFU deputy president.

"We want re-classification of the definition of low incidence status. And we want the modification of the Date Based Export Scheme to give factories the flexibility to kill export animals on a day-dedicated system, or even within a days kill."

Before the beef export ban was imposed on the UK in 1996, more than 70% of Northern Irelands beef production was exported from its shores.

"Our predictions say that there would be an immediate £10-15 per head price increase for export eligible animals if the trade were to resume," says Mr Tweed. That, he adds, would bring a much-needed boost in confidence to beef farmers in Northern Ireland.