24 June 1999
NI beef exports unlikely this summer
By Farmers Weekly staff
BEEF exports from Northern Ireland are unlikely to resume before the end of the summer, says the Ulster Farmers Union.
Despite shipments being given the green light by the European Commission last week, following computer problems which led to the ban a month ago, new requirements under the provinces export certified herd scheme mean there are too few eligible cattle for export, says the union.
As a result, Linden Foods, which operated Northern Irelands only dedicated export plant, has switched to beef from the Republic of Ireland to meet demand for its new contract with Dutch retailer Albert Heijn.
“We recognise the new measures are in line with legislation, but it is questionable that they are being implemented across Europe as vigorously as in Northern Ireland,” says union president Will Taylor.
“It is not acceptable that producers should face a financial penalty because the legislation posts have moved.”
Double-tagging is a main concern. Putting the measures into place will take weeks, and the cost will run into six figures, the union estimates.
Lindens Richard Moore says: “To keep the export market alive we are having to source beef from Southern Ireland.”
But Northern Irish producers supplying cattle which meet export requirements will receive a bonus of £12 a head, he adds. “This will give us a clear idea of availability.”