South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has pressed the Agriculture Minister in London on the need for resources for the meat export trade in light of the possible exit from the European Union as a result of referendum vote in June 2016.
Ms Ritchie said that following her meeting with Minister Eustice in December, along with representatives of the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association and the International Meat Trade Association, she has now made representations to him urging that Government resources are made available to prevent bottle necks in the meat export market access work, particularly with regard to meat establishment approval work, undertaken by the Food Standards Agency.
She added: “Lack of adequate resources in the meat trade export sphere have been a difficult challenge for several years and now need to be resolved and addressed. This is vitally important as export trade receipts are one of the corner stones of our local economy in Northern Ireland.
“Although Free Trade Agreements cannot be discussed with third countries whilst the UK is still a member of the European Union, it is already in its gift to progress market access work for meat. Veterinary approval is something the government could achieve tangible outcomes for industry even whilst still a European Union member.
“For many years there have been discussions to update the veterinary export certification IT system. This project needs to be progressed, including the facility for e certification – one which I have urged the Minister to progress to a successful conclusion.”
Ms Ritchie said she has told the Minister that if DEFRA wants to increase exports by 2010 there must be adequate financial resourcing not only for the market access negotiations within the Department but also within the Food Standards Agency to undertake meat establishment approval work and at APHA which issues certificates once they have been agreed.
She added: “There is a real risk that if the UK does not have a trading arrangement with the European Union once, or if it leaves that UK meat exports to the European Union will face full duty. This will mean that generally it will not be economically viable to export to the European Union.”