European Agriculture Ministers, meeting today, have agreed to allow a resumption of exports of beef from certified herds in Northern Ireland. The breakthrough comes nearly two years after the ban was first imposed on 27 March 1996.
Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham said:
"This is excellent news. The decision recognises that our beef is safe to export. Lifting the ban for herds in Northern Ireland is the first crucial step towards lifting the ban for other parts of the UK. Today's achievement is based on months of negotiation in Brussels and other European capitals. The Prime Minister has played a major role. MAFF officials have made an excellent contribution.
"Last October I proposed a second scheme that would allow the export of animals born after 1 August 1996, benefiting all UK beef producers. That is being considered by the Commission at the moment. We are pressing them for progress. Today's success demonstrates that the approach of this Government is getting results, to the benefit of farmers, and the entire UK beef industry."
The European Commission's Export Certified Herds Scheme proposal was put to the European Agriculture Ministers in Brussels today. They voted by 11 Member States to 2 (with 2 abstentions) to allow a resumption of exports of beef from certified herds in Northern Ireland, which already has a computerised Cattle Traceability System.
The Scheme will allow the export of deboned beef from animals aged between 6-30 months, from herds certified as having had no cases of BSE in animals in or from those herds for at least eight years. The records of all animals and their movements must be held on a computer database, and show that an animal's mother has not developed BSE and has survived six months after the animal's birth.
The slaughter of Export Certified Herd Scheme animals will take place in dedicated abattoirs. Meat processing and product preparation will only take place in plants dedicated to producing export material. All plants involved in the production chain will be subject to rigorous supervision.
The following additional notes are provided: