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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
NI beef returns to European menus
Export orders have already been received from other countries.
NI beef is being relaunched in Europe following the official lifting of the UK export ban imposed in 1996 to prevent the spread of mad cow disease.

Local farming industry leaders have travelled to Brussels to kick off a new marketing campaign.

Roast beef flown in for the occasion was served to guests at the Northern Ireland Executive's office.

Commercial shipments to continental butchers and supermarkets are expected to recommence in the next few days.

Agriculture Minister Jeff Rooker hosted a lunch in Brussels to promote Northern Ireland beef following the lifting of the ban.

"The minister said: "I am delighted that the day has finally arrived when Northern Ireland can once again export beef and live cattle on the same basis as other Member States.

"This is a significant occasion for the Northern Ireland agri-food sector and I pay tribute to the way in which stakeholders and government have worked together to secure the ending of the export ban."

The farming industry anticipates a slow recovery of once lucrative markets.

It is estimated that tens of millions of pounds have been lost to the Northern Ireland economy since the restrictions came in 10 years ago.

Speaking from Brussels on Wednesday, Ulster Farmers' Union president Kenneth Sharkey said: "For the first time in 10 years, we as farmers in Northern Ireland can market our products the same as other European farmers."

DUP European Parliament member Jim Allister said Wednesday marked "an important starting point in re-establishing Ulster beef in the European marketplace".


Live cattle born after 1 August 1996 can now be exported, as can beef from cattle slaughtered after 15 June, 2005.

France and some other EU states have yet to amend their legislation to allow imports of UK meat.

Restrictions will remain for beef containing vertebral material and for beef sold on the bone.

European officials agreed to lift the ban as cases of BSE dropped in the UK.

The Netherlands, Greece and Italy are expected to be the first major markets for British beef after exports resume on Wednesday, with orders from foreign buyers already received.

Farmers say lifting the ban will help re-build their multi-million pound overseas market.

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