Beef industry secures vital trading boost

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Securing the official green light to trade with BSE negligible risk status is fantastic news for Northern Ireland’s beef industry.

And organisations like the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the Livestock and Meat Commission and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters’ Association must be congratulated for getting it over the line.

But this is only the beginning. This development must be used to make a real difference, when it comes to getting new markets and delivering better prices for farmers.

If these two core objectives cannot be achieved then all of the effort put in to get us where we are today will count for nothing.

Having negligible risk status now puts us above regions like the Republic of Ireland and England in the grand pecking order of things. So, surely, the objective of getting beef from Northern Ireland into countries like China and the United States now becomes all the more attainable.

Local livestock producers are extremely lucky in being part of Europe’s most lucrative beef market. This is why meat suppliers from around the world want to export their produce into the UK.

But the ‘putting our eggs into one basket’ principle is always a risky strategy. In any event, the UK market will only accept a select range of beef products.

As a result, Northern Ireland’s processors must continually strive to get the best possible return for all of the beef cuts they are selling. And exporting is the only way this can be achieved.

The only downside to the BSE negligible risk breakthrough is the fact that we do not have a functioning Executive at Stormont. In reality it will take a concerted political effort to ensure that London pushes Northern Ireland’s newly attained BSE credentials in helping us to secure new export markets.

As far as I am aware, the authorities in Belfast must go through Whitehall where matters relating to trade and exports are concerned.

It now looks like we won’t see any real political developments taking place at Stormont before the autumn.

So here’s a quick refresh. The Brexit train has already left the station and now we have the fantastic news of the BSE breakthrough.

Given these circumstances, the question has to be asked: where are our politicians when we really need them?

In my opinion, local agriculture continues to be let down badly by our ‘so called’ political elite at a time when these same people could be making a real difference on behalf of every farmer in Northern Ireland.