GB beef back in world business by Xmas

27 March 1998

GB beef ‘back in world business by Xmas’

By Philip Clarke
FW Europe Editor

BRITISH beef could be back on international markets by Christmas, farming
leaders believe.

Their optimism followed the announcement from EU farm commissioner, Franz
Fischler, on Tuesday that he would present the date-based export scheme, already cleared by his scientific advisers, to a full meeting of European commissioners “within a couple of weeks”.

Dr Fischler told a 40-strong delegation of NFU and Scottish NFU members in
Brussels that British farmers had done everything that was asked of them. It was now up to the commission to take things forward.

The proposal, allowing exports of beef from animals born after August 1, 1996, would go to commissioners, who would pass it immediately to the Standing Veterinary Committee for approval. If that was not forthcoming, it would then go to EU farm ministers, who could lift the ban by a simple eight to seven majority.

“You have my full support that I will do my best to bring these things forward
as fast as I can,” said Dr Fischler. “From my side, there wont be any delay.”
NFU president, Ben Gill, said he was greatly encouraged by the progress. “At the very latest we want this matter settled by the autumn.” And George Lyon,
Scottish NFU president, said he hoped exports could resume by the end of the

But when the farmers met eight Euro-MPs, they were left in no doubt about the political pitfalls that lie ahead in getting the date-based scheme approved.

“We are moved by your stories and I would love to tell you your beef ban will be lifted tomorrow. But that will not happen. The Italians, the Germans and others will not allow it,” said German MEP Dagmar Roth-Behrendt.

There was still a real lack of consumer confidence, she said. Recent media
reports, claiming that 47,000 BSE cohorts had gone missing and that UK farmers were burying BSE casualties, had reinforced the fears.

The MEPs also attached great importance to having a central computerised
tracking system in place.

But Mr Gill explained that the so-called “missing” cohorts were ones which
farmers had already disposed of in the over 30-month scheme as they tried to
crack on with rebuilding the national herds reputation. And while a computer
system would be operational by the autumn, it was not a requirement of the date-based scheme, which would use cattle passports.

After the meetings, Mr Lyon said commission officials would now come to Britain to study the BSE controls. “We hope they will accept that a paper-based system is sufficient to verify the birth dates of animals and then rapid progress can be made,” he said.

  • For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 27 March-2 April, 1998

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