INDUSTRY leaders warn that a long, hard road lies ahead if overseas markets are to be regained for beef.
Exports are likely to fall far short of 1995 levels of £200 million, according to David Rutledge, chief executive of Northern Irelands Meat and Livestock Commission. Mr Rutledge said exports will initially be worth a maximum of £150m – much less than the £200m they were worth before the ban was imposed two years ago.
The ultimate success of Ulsters beef with any of its former customers would be determined by the consumers and no one could be presumptuous about their willingness to return to beef from Northern Ireland, Mr Rutledge added.
Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union, said the rest of the UK will now be pressing Brussels for progress on the “date-based scheme” which would allow the export of cattle born after 1 August 1996.
He said that Brussels regards the date-based scheme as simpler than the certified herd scheme. If the date-based scheme is given the go-ahead, it will be logical to phase out the destruction of cattle more than 30 months-old. Animals born after August 1996 could then re-enter the food chain at any age, Mr Gill added.
The NFU will lead a delegation of farmers to Brussels next Tuesday to meet European Commissioners Sir Leon Brittan, Franz Fischler and Neil Kinnock. The farmers will highlight the beef safety controls already in place and the draw attention to the economic damage that the ban is causing.
The Meat and Livestock Commission wants to see the rest of the beef ban lifted by the end of the year when the UK-wide computerised cattle trading system should be in operation.
A separate article in the Financial Times focuses on Richard Carden, the deputy secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture who has spent more than a year negotiating the certified herd scheme.
- Financial Times 17/03/98 page 10, page 24
- The Times 17/03/98 page 8
- The Guardian 17/03/98 page 8
- The Independent 17/03/98 page 2
- The Daily Telegraph 17/03/98 page 2
- The Scotsman 17/03/98 page 2