05 March 1998
EU vets support plan to re-start Ulster beef exports
THE worldwide export ban on beef from Northern Ireland looks certain to end later this month after vets from 10 European Union countries backed the move yesterday.
European veterinary experts gave unexpectedly strong support to a Northern Irelands computerised certified herd scheme which would allow de-boned meat from herds – free of BSE for eight years – to be exported.
It means the two-year ban on UK beef exports seems certain to be eased
shortly. Exports from Ulster would only be allowed initially.
Yesterdays vote in the standing veterinary committee was insufficient to secure the qualified majority necessary for lifting the ban. But a final decision will be taken by agriculture ministers in Brussels on 16 and 17 March. The proposal only needs the support of eight countries at farm council to be endorsed.
Germany, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg were the four countries to vote against the proposal while France abstained.
UK officials and farmer leaders are confident the proposal will be backed when it gets to farm council with Dr Jack Cunningham, agriculture minister, saying Northern Irelands prospects look good.
British officials hope progress can now be made on a separate UK proposal which would see the ban lifted on meat from all animals born after August 1996. That was the date when meat and bone meal feed – thought to have caused the BSE disease in cattle – was banned.
Meanwhile, only three member states from the standing veterinary committee supported a European Commission proposal to expand the list of specified risk materials (SRMs) removed from animals at abattoirs.
The controversial proposal would have delayed the introduction of the EU-wide ban on SRMs until the end of the year – it should have been introduced last December – as well as offering BSE-free countries an exemption from the ban.
The Commission proposed the amendment in a bid to avoid a trade war with third countries such as the US. The strategy will now be considered by agriculture ministers at the mid-March meeting.