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.
The UFU says that 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.
A DAERA spokesperson said: “The Department is committed to continuing to work closely and co-operatively with industry representatives on this issue. A 12 week public consultation on the proposal to submit an application to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) for BSE NR status will close on 13 June 2016. Officials will consider responses to the consultation and will advise the Minister on the way forward in respect of an application for NR status for Northern Ireland. A decision on whether to apply for NR status cannot be made until all these processes have been completed.
“Officials are currently drafting a dossier and assessments specified by the OIE Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and by Regulation (EC) 999/2001 Annex II to be defined as a separate zone with BSE negligible risk status.”