Tighter restrictions on imports of Brazilian beef have been agreed in Brussels, though they fall short of a total ban and will not take effect until 31 January 2008.
From that date, Brazilian beef supplies to the EU may only come from farms that are on an approved list and that meet more restrictive EU import requirements.
In particular, the slaughtered cattle must have been kept within one of the EU-approved territories for at least 90 days, and must have been on the listed holding for at least 40 days prior to slaughter.
The new rules were agreed by EU vets meeting in the influential SCOFCAH committee on Wednesday afternoon (19 December).
It followed a less-than-satisfactory inspection visit to Brazil by the EU in November to look at the country’s traceability system in the light of continuing foot-and-mouth.
“There were serious and repeated deficiencies in Brazil’s animal health and traceability systems,” said a statement. “Despite a series of warnings after previous inspections, the Brazilian authorities failed to take the appropriate measures to correct these problems and to fully meet EU requirements,” it said.
Farm organisations have welcomed the move to tighten up on Brazilian beef imports.
“While our preferred outcome would have been a total ban, this decision goes a long way to addressing the unfairness of the current situation, where one of our main competitors is allowed to operate to lower standards than those expected by European producers, and will also provide further safeguards for consumers,” said NFU president Peter Kendal.
The Ulster Farmers Union reckoned the ruling would effectively ban beef shipments from 97% of all Brazilian beef units. UFU president Kenneth Sharkey said the partial ban was a step in the right direction. He would be discussing the situation with UK supermarkets to consider the market impact.