China’s decision this week to lift it’s ban on importing beef from the United Kingdom has been warmly welcomed.
The decision by China to lift the longstanding BSE ban on UK beef exports was described by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) as “a landmark move for producers, including those in Northern Ireland”.
The lifting of the ban, first imposed over 20 years ago, follows two successful inspection visits to the UK in 2017 and 2018. During the visits Chinese inspectors spent several days in Northern Ireland inspecting official BSE controls in feed mills, slaughter plants and at the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AfBI) laboratory.
The inspectors were briefed by officials from DAERA veterinary service and Food Standards Agency (FSA) on all aspects of BSE systems and procedures in Northern Ireland and the high standards that earned BSE negligible risk status in 2017.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Huey: “This is wonderful news for the beef industry in Northern Ireland and is a major step to opening up access to the Chinese market. This follows a huge amount of work within DAERA and with our industry partners, both primary producers and beef processors. I’d also like to commend the efforts of the Northern Ireland Bureau in China, AFBI, the Livestock and Meat Commission, the NI Grain Trade Association and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association in helping to open this important export market.
“The Department has built close ties with China over several years through a number of visits by Ministers and officials, and through our relationship with the Chinese Consulate in Belfast. This announcement today further strengthens the bond with China.”
UFU beef and lamb chairman Sam Chesney said the decision by China was “great news for UK beef farmers”.
“A lot of hard work across the industry has gone into achieving BSE negligible status. The payoff is markets, like China, re-opening to us,” said Mr Chesney
“Northern Ireland produces world-class beef and this is an excellent opportunity. There is no time to waste and the focus now should be on getting the necessary approvals in place for exporting to China as quickly as possible.”
Northern Ireland’s politicians have also welcomed the move.
UUP leader Robin Swann said: “This is brilliant news, not only in the short-term but for the entire UK beef industry moving forward. China, with the largest population on the planet, has the world’s fastest growing beef market and is heavily dependent on imports to meet the spiraling demand.
“This breakthrough into the Chinese beef market comes at a very important time for local agriculture as the UK Government continues to struggle to secure a final post-Brexit settlement.”
DUP MEP Diane Dodds added: “Ultimately the success of lifting this ban will be based on how quickly we gain market access and the financial benefit to our farmers. There is no doubt that this is a step in the right direction but Government must continue to do more to open new markets.
“We have impressed the need for this to be a Government priority and will be continuing to push for additional resources.”