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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Welcome for beef export decision
Beef
Scottish farmers say their beef is guaranteed quality
Steps towards the relaxing of beef export laws have been welcomed by Scottish Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie.

Restrictions have been in place for a decade on the kind of meat that can be sold abroad due to fears over BSE.

Cattle over 30 months are still banned from entering the food chain.

But the Food Standards Agency said improved testing had made meat safer to export. Its stance could lead to changes in the EU regulations.

That would see the reopening of a market worth tens of millions of pounds to Scottish farmers.

Testing system

Mr Finnie described the decision as "very good news for consumers and the Scottish beef industry".

He added: "We can now consider moving to an effective testing system later this year across the UK.

"This, of course, is a very significant milestone on the way to our wider objective of securing changes to the EU export ban, which currently restricts Scottish beef to home markets."

We just hope this is the beginning of the end and that scientific opinion is allowed to hold sway
Jim Walker
Quality Meat Scotland

Exports were banned in 1996 after the link was made between BSE in cattle and the brain disease vCJD in humans.

The strict controls put in place also included removing parts of the animal which may be infected.

It is now thought the Over Thirty Month (OTM) scheme will be ended by Christmas, followed by exports to the continent returning by February.

The BBC's Rural Affairs Correspondent Ken Rundle said there was confidence that the new testing regime was a robust system.

He added: "This would allow a few bits of Scottish beef back onto high quality markets, expensive cuts going to expensive places like Monte Carlo and Madrid, but never the less it would be a start and would give Scottish producers some kind bargaining chip when dealing with the big supermarkets.

BSE cow
Cattle over the age of 30 months had been subject to an export ban

"But the majority of quality beef will continue to be below 30 months, we're talking here about cow beef, the stuff that goes into meat pies, ready meals, mince and so on, manufacturing beef, that's where most of the market will come from these older cows."

Jim Walker, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that the last full market trade in exports in 1995 was worth 150m, with a significant amount of that from cattle over 30 months.

He said: "We just hope this is the beginning of the end and that scientific opinion is allowed to hold sway and that politics doesn't get in the way, as it has consistently over the last 10 years.

"We know, because there are big shortages of beef in Europe at the moment, that there are markets for quality products from prime beef from Scotland."


SEE ALSO:
Farmers welcome end of beef ban
01 Dec 04 |  Scotland


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