28 April 2000
Brown’s hope for Ulster beef exports
By Alistair Driver
THE prospect of Northern Irish beef getting back into lost export markets has brightened after a statement by agriculture minister Nick Brown.
Mr Brown announced a two-month consultation period to discuss a submission to Brussels asking for Northern Ireland to be granted low BSE incidence status.
The Provinces case is “overwhelming”, he told the annual general meeting of the Ulster Farmers Union on Thursday (27 April).
“Northern Ireland has a very low incidence of BSE, reflecting in part the long-established cattle tracing system in the Province,” he said.
“Achieving low-incidence status would help restore confidence in Northern Ireland beef, and would open the way for exports.”
Will Taylor, who retired as UFU president at the AGM, said the move was a crucial step in a process that could see the status awarded by late autumn.
But he admitted that the strong Pound and global perceptions of British beef would make it difficult to claw the lost markets back.
The relaxation of the export scheme could gradually open the door for other parts of the UK, as well as benefiting Northern Ireland cattle farmers.
One issue to be addressed is whether carcasses and beef would be allowed into Northern Ireland from Britain, which will retain its high incidence status.
European food safety commissioner David Byrne said he would take the case forward to the EU scientific committee when the consultation is complete.
About half of Northern Irelands beef was exported before exports were banned by the European Union at the height of the BSE crisis in 1996.
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