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Johan Eylenbosch Belgian beef exporter
"The problem is not the quality"
 real 56k

The BBC's Justin Webb
"Reluctance to eat British meat is still there"
 real 56k

The BBC's Justin Webb
"The strength of Sterling makes British beef too expensive"
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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Europe snubs British beef
Britsh beef is unpopular in the wake of the BSE crisis
Less than 1% of the British beef export trade has been won back since the European Union lifted its ban, it has emerged.

The Meat and Livestock Commission said around 500 tonnes of meat had been exported to the EU in the last 12 months, compared with 191,000 tonnes in the last full year before the ban was imposed.

Export figures in the last year confirm the tough time the industry has had in persuading European consumers to go back to British beef.

Every time a French minister and a British minister meet, the ban should be the first item on the agenda

Tim Yeo shadow agriculture minister
The ban - imposed in March 1996 over concerns that consumers might contract the human form of BSE or "mad cow" disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD) disease - was lifted last year.

British exporters in Brussels have blamed a variety of factors for the slow take-up on the continent, says the BBC's Justin Webb.

French reluctance

The principal difficulty has been the failure of the French to lift their ban, as France was the biggest importer before the BSE crisis.

But there has been a reluctance among other European consumers to take up the slack.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said: "Until Nick Brown [Agriculture Minister] starts banging on the table with the European Commission the conditions will remain for years.

Even if the French lifted their ban now we wouldn't expect a huge surge in the figures

Maff spokesman
"They have to seize the opportunity with the French. Every time a French minister and a British minister meet, the ban should be the first item on the agenda."

High value of pound

The strength of sterling was also cited as a problem.

The Commission said it would have been easier to compete with countries like the Republic of Ireland if the value of the pound had been lower.

Johan Eylenbosch, a Belgian meat exporter, told BBC News 24: "The price has to go down. The quality has never been a problem. British beef is well appreciated in Belgium."

A spokesman for the Ministery of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods said the pound's high value was a "small factor".

He said: "Even if the French lifted their ban now, we wouldn't expect a huge surge in the figures."

The Meat and Livestock Commission said the main customers since the ban have been independent retailers and restauranteurs in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

British beef is still banned in other countries around the world, such as New Zealand and America.

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17 Mar 00 | Europe
Germany lifts UK beef ban
15 Feb 00 | Europe
German beef ban in firing line
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