BSE trade boost for NI exporters

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Northern Ireland beef exporters can now trade with the lowest level status available for Bovine Spongiform Encelphalapathy (BSE).

The new risk status was recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in May 2017 and formally endorsed by the European Union on 27 July 2017 allowing Northern Ireland exporters to take full advantage of the new trading opportunities it offers.

Scotland has also achieved Negligible Risk (NR) Status while England and Wales and the Republic of Ireland continue to be recognised as having controlled risk status.

Robert Huey, Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, commented: “This is a huge boost for the beef sector in Northern Ireland and the culmination of years of invaluable work of our beef producers and finishers, red meat business, vets, government officials and many others. The new risk status will enhance the international image of Northern Ireland as a disease-free area and provides an excellent platform from which to increase our beef exports to international markets.

“We are now working with the beef industry to maximise the benefit secured from this newly gained status, while maintaining our high standards of public and animal health.”

Conall Donnelly, CEO of the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA), added: “This is a strong endorsement of the health standards of the Northern Ireland herd. This will pay dividends in terms of our international reputation and will be a significant factor in helping to further develop our access to global markets. As an industry we are working closely with government to capitalise on Negligible Risk Status and ensure the greatest possible benefit.”

Ulster Farmers’ Union, deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, says the endorsement by the European Union to recognise Northern Ireland’s BSE negligible risk status is very welcome news for the local beef industry.

Mr Chestnutt added: “For over 20 years Northern Ireland has had to deal with the legacy of BSE and we are delighted that the whole industry and DAERA has been able to work towards achieving the lowest risk level status available for BSE.

“The pre-BSE era is generally remembered fondly by beef farmers as a time when market conditions were much more favourable and there was a greater degree of stability so hopefully Northern Ireland’s new status can help return the sector to those better times by way of securing new market access and adding value to the high quality beef we know farmers can deliver.

According to Mr Chestnutt, the lower BSE risk status will also mean significantly less Specified Risk Material (SRM) from the carcase going for disposal. This development, alone, could save the beef industry up to £1.2m per annum. Chestnutt added:

“This has been a considerable cost which farmers have reluctantly had to carry for many years,” he said.

“At the outset of the process for applying for negligible risk status this was an area the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association identified which could reduce costs to farmers by way of lower kill charges. And it is something we fully expect Association members to stand over.

“Reducing the amount of material now sent for destruction, and using more of the carcass, will also reduce the carbon footprint of the beef sector.”

According to Mr Chestnutt, the lower BSE risk status will also mean significantly less Specified Risk Material (SRM) from the carcase going for disposal. This development, alone, could save the beef industry up to £1.2m per annum.

Mr Chestnut added: “This has been a considerable cost which farmers have reluctantly had to carry for many years,” he said.

“At the outset of the process for applying for negligible risk status this was an area the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association identified which could reduce costs to farmers by way of lower kill charges. And it is something we fully expect Association members to stand over.”

“Reducing the amount of material now sent for destruction, and using more of the carcass, will also reduce the carbon footprint of the beef sector.”