20 April 1998
EU officials inspect Ulster beef safeguards

By FWi staff

A TEAM of European Union officials flew into Northern Ireland today (Monday) to inspect the Provinces readiness to resume beef exports.

The four officials will visit farms, processors and packers over the coming week to compile a report on the Provinces computerised tracking system, the workability of its certified herd scheme and the introduction of public safety measures in meat plants.

Trevor Lockhart, Ulster Farmers Union spokesman, said the computerised tracking system would be given a “dummy run” this week to convince the delegates of its effectiveness.

“I understand that the officials will conclude their investigations at the end of this week. They will then have 10 days to submit their report,” Mr Lockhart said.

“The UK will then be given 10 days to examine the report again and address any final recommendations before submitting their proposal to the European Commission.”

The actual date to re-start exports would probably have to be ratified by the Standing Veterinary Committee, he said.

“So effectively, we could see the ban lifted by late May or early June, assuming everything goes to plan this week,” he added.

A Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland spokesman said 75% of the Provinces 30,000 herds met the EUs requirements for the certified herd scheme, which was given the all clear by Brussels last month.