Cumbria to keep tabs on cattle
A CENTRAL computerised database capable of tracking every bull and cow throughout the UK will be up and running by March 1998, the government has announced.
Originally, the government had hoped to have the cattle traceability system operating by the end of the year, but the project was delayed by the general election. It is now expected to be functional by the end of 1998, well in advance of the European Commissions deadline of 1999, when all EU member states are obliged to have similar systems in place.
During a beef debate in theHouse of Commons on Wednesday, the government made brief mention of the new public sector organisation, which will be called the British Cattle Movement Service. The service will be based at Workington, in West Cumbria, and will create over 100 new jobs for local people, responsible for tracking up to 20 million cattle movements a year.
Officials hope the traceability scheme will restore European confidence in British beef following the BSE crisis in March last year. The EU has stipulated that it wont lift the export ban against British beef until the UK government implements an effective tracking system.
Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker said yesterday that the new scheme would give the UK one of the most advanced traceability systems in Europe, and would play a pivotal role in restoring European confidence in British beef.
“With this new system, we aim to be one of the leaders in Europe on cattle traceability,” he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has yet to decide who will pay the start-up costs, estimated at £5 million, as well as the £15m annual running costs.
Abattoirs and auction markets are expected to provide about 90% of the cattle movement data electronically, with the remaining 10% of movements from farm to farm recorded through a paper-based system.
Mr Rooker said consumer, producer and retailer interests would be fully involved in implementing the foundation scheme and developing a strategy to move to a highly automated system.