British beef is back in Europe in a big way
By Isabel Davies
BRITISH beef made a triumphant return to European plates this week to the delight and relief of the livestock industry.
The Meat and Livestock Commission stepped up its attempt to reintroduce British beef to the world by hosting a high profile lunch in Brussels on Wednesday.
Junior farm minister Joyce Quin was joined by the Belgian farm minister Jaak Gabriel and EU Commission officials at the celebration lunch.
The meal featured meat dispatched from the St. Merryn plant in Cornwall on Monday – the first beef exported for over three and a half years.
Events marked the first in a series of meetings, lunches and dinners to be held across Europe aimed at reopening export markets.
MLC chairman Don Curry said: "This is a tremendous day for the British beef industry – we have worked long and hard to get this ban lifted and we plan to work even longer and harder to re-establish export markets around the world."
Ms Quin said she was delighted to be at the lunch but warned that it was now up to British producers, not governement, to win back export markets.
"I hope the expression of interest the MLC is receiving will soon be turned into sales in Europe and beyond," she said.
Referring to the German governments reluctance to lift the ban on British beef, she said: "We hope that German procedures will be gone through soon.
"We hope and expect the commission to remind all countries, including Germany, that a decision has been made to accept British beef."
John Dracup, of St Merryn Meat, the only abattoir in the country certified to export beef, said interest from overseas customers was building.
"We are finalising serious negotiations with a number of customers from several countries. The first commercial exports should take place in the next few weeks."
But he added that he had been asked not to name the countries involved because of the sensitivity that surrounds buying British beef.
Belgian minister Mr Gabriel said he was happy the BSE crisis was now over for Britain. The ongoing dioxin crisis had let his country know exactly what it was like to be isolated from the rest of the world.