20 November 2000
Brussels acts on beef mountain

By Johann Tasker

BRUSSELS has announced an emergency Private Storage Aid Scheme to remove a growing mountain of surplus beef caused by the French BSE crisis.

The scheme will open on 27 November.

Aid will be paid at Euro472/tonne (about 283) for the first 3 months and Euro0.93/tonne (about 56p) per day thereafter up to a further 3 months.

The scheme will stay open until 2 February, 2001, European union officials said on Monday (20 November). The minimum quantity will be 10 tonnes.

French beef sales, which plummeted by 40% after France confirmed it had suffered more than 100 cases of BSE so far this year, are continuing to slide.

Irish exporters who normally export thousands of tonnes of beef to France are frantically searching for outlets in other European markets, including Britain.

Intervention for “O” grade steers has now been opened in France and Ireland in a bid to prevent prices crashing by take surplus supplies off the market.

David Mitchell, livestock committee chairman for the National Farmers Union of Scotland, said it was essential to mop up surplus supply.

“The last thing we want is surplus beef in other Member States spilling over into Britain and having a knock on effect on the market here,” he said.

“The continued absence of any real export market for our own beef makes it doubly important to protect our domestic market from disruption.”

Italy and Spain have both imposed a unilateral ban on French beef imports. But British farmers believe similar ban in Britain would have dire consequences.

Imports of French beef should continue to be allowed into Britain, despite mounting calls to the contrary, said the National Beef Association.

“Theres a grave danger that we would shoot ourselves in the foot,” Robert Robinson, NBA chairman, told Farmers Weekly.

Mr Robinsons comments came as Scottish butchers said that British anti-BSE measures were pointless unless imports of French beef were kept out.

But outlawing shipment to Britain would be “a mistake” and make it harder to persuade the French to lift their ongoing ban on British beef, said Mr Robinson.