11 December 2000
NI beef export hopes on hold

By Alistair Driver

NORTHERN Irish hopes of export beef without the burden of excessive export controls have been put on hold by Europes new BSE scare.

Brid Rodgers, Northern Irish agriculture minister, has delayed a submission to the Brussels stating the provinces case for low-incidence BSE status.

Farmers had hoped that export controls would be relaxed next spring. But Mrs Rodgers said the political climate over BSE forced her to delay the submission.

Mrs Rodgers has told the Northern Ireland Assemblys agriculture committee she believes the province will regain its beef market once the crisis dies down.

European concern over BSE could even help in the long run, as it will show efforts to control the disease in a better light, she said on Friday (8 December).

Joe McDonald of the Ulster Farmers Union said: “Everything now depends on how the new controls introduced across Europe restore consumer confidence.”

Delaying the submission was acceptable, said Mr McDonald.

Panic over BSE in France and the discovery of the disease in Denmark, Spain and Holland meant the political will to relax BSE controls did not exist.

The new status would allow farmers to export beef to the Continent without having to satisfy the rules of the date-based export scheme.

Six BSE cases were found in Northern Ireland last year. At 7.5 cases per million animals it is well below the high-incidence threshold of 100 cases/million.