4 January 2001
Irish mad-cow plan to boost UK

By Philip Clarke

BRITAINS beleaguered beef market is expected to be lifted when Ireland opens a slaughter scheme for older cattle under new rules to reduce BSE.

Irish cattlemen will start offering over-30-month animals for slaughter under the European Union Purchase For Destruction scheme from Monday (08 January).

The move is expected to relieve some of the pressure on Europes depressed beef market, which has slipped in the wake of consumer fears about BSE.

Irish beef exporters have increasingly targeted Britain in recent months following the closure of key markets such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The new scheme will see over-30-month R3 steers bought up at Ir91.2p/lb (162p/kg), with O grades fetching Ir88.7p/lb (157p/kg).

Irish agriculture minister Joe Walsh said: “This will provide a firm basis on which to build a lasting market recovery for this vital sector of the economy.”

In the past two months Irish values have slipped from about Ir90p/lb (160p/kg) to Ir78p/lb (138p/kg) for R grades.

Mr Walsh also announced that Ireland is ready for BSE testing for all over-30-month animals – six months ahead of a European Union deadline.

Dublin estimates that some 15,000 animals a week will be tested and cleared for sale through normal commercial channels.

Animals which are not tested will automatically go into the purchase for destruction scheme, incurring an additional cost to the taxpayer of about Ir250 (UK201).

In total there will be 18 plants participating in the scheme, with capacity to handle some 25,000 head a week.

To be eligible, animals should have been present on Irish holdings for at least six months, and must be accompanied by their Cattle Identity Cards.

Application forms will be available from local government offices and participating meat plants from Friday (05 January).

Mr Walsh said action would be taken if anyone was found deliberately holding back animals to qualify for the new scheme.