The Ulster Farmers’ Union has backed plans for Northern Ireland to seek official BSE negligible risk (BSE NR) status.
In a response to a DAERA consultation the UFU said it had been pressing DARD, now DAERA, since December of last year to prioritise this application, seeing it as a way to dismantle costly BSE controls that are no longer proportionate to the risk.
UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, said that while the current ‘controlled risk’ status opened many markets, the NR status would send ‘a more positive image’ of our animal health status to countries the local beef industry wants to access. “
BSE remains a concern for some of the priority trade targets such as China, USA, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Beef exporters believe that access to these markets could deliver over £12 million a year, some of which would find its way to producers,” said Mr Chestnutt.
Moving from Controlled to Negligible Risk status also opens the prospect of changing existing rules. It could pave the way to remove the stipulations that meat for some countries must come from cattle under 30 months of age.
“From a sustainability perspective, the potential to reduce the amount of specified risk material (SRM), which requires disposal, has the potential to reduce costs for the industry with the current savings estimated at £1.2 million per year. This would allow processors to reduce disposal charges to farmers,” said Mr Chestnutt.
The UFU says there would also be environmental gains from reducing the volume of SRM material that has to be processed, since it would reduce the greenhouse gases from processing this material. “We are encouraging DAERA to target securing BSE NR status at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) annual congress in Paris, May 2017,” said Mr Chestnutt.