4 June 1999

British beef exports back

on course by September?

By FW reporters

EXPORTS of British beef could resume in September, according to Scottish NFU president Jim Walker.

The EU standing veterinary committee is expected to approve the traceability and abattoir standards associated with the date-based export scheme at its meeting on July 13-14.

That would be followed by formal acceptance of the scheme by the EU Commission which would declare a date for the resumption of exports. The date would allow a few weeks for an official inspection of all the meat plants wishing to become dedicated for exports.

The optimism follows an EU report following the inspection of three British abattoirs and the associated traceability of cattle. "I have not seen the report but my understanding is that there are no major problems, nothing which cannot be corrected, nothing which should delay the resumption of exports," said Mr Walker.

MAFF confirmed that it had received a copy of the commission inspectors report at the end of last week. But it refused to discuss the contents.

It is understood, however, that the commission wanted clarification on the progress of the offspring cull and more details about how meat eligible for export would be segregated from that destined for the domestic market.

A MAFF spokeswoman said she thought it would be relatively easy for the UK to meet all the points raised.

Although the UK has 25 days to respond to the report, it is expected to do so within the next week.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland producers are still waiting for the commission to make a decision on whether their beef exports can resume.

Commission officials met staff from the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland (DANI) last Friday but have not yet lifted the ban, imposed last week after meat from 19 animals was mistakenly allowed into the export chain.