28 May 1999

NI beef exports halted by glitch

BEEF exports from Northern Ireland have been suspended after problems with the provinces computerised cattle tracing system were identified.

The halt to exports, following a visit by EU inspectors last week, immediately sparked fears that the move could hamper Britains efforts to secure final EU approval for the date-based export scheme (DBES).

Scottish Office officials went to great lengths to point out that the Northern Ireland scheme, the so-called export certified herd scheme, was entirely different from the DBES.

Northern Irelands problems centred on a fault in the computerised tracing system and resulted in the export of beef from 19 cattle that did not meet the certified herd schemes rigid requirements.

The EU inspectors demanded that new security measures were introduced, including double tagging of cattle.

Northern Irelands department of agriculture has now launched an urgent consultation with the farming and meat industry to try and iron out the problems as quickly as possible.

The Linden Group, formerly Granville Meats, was exporting 10-15 tonnes of beef a week from Northern Ireland to mainland Europe.

Although that beef may now end up on the British market, Meat and Livestock Commission economist Duncan Sinclair said it would have little impact on prouducer prices.