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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Beef exports start as ban lifted
Ross Finnie in abattoir
Mr Finnie watched the loading of the first consignment of beef
Scotland has started exporting beef to the rest of the EU, marking the end of a 10-year ban imposed at the height of the BSE crisis.

The EU's food chain and animal health committee voted to lift restrictions on the import of British beef, beef products and live cattle in March.

Environment Minister Ross Finnie saw the loading of the first consignment.

He was joined by Quality Meat Scotland interim chairman Donald Biggar at Scotbeef in Bridge of Allan.

The ban was introduced in 1996 to combat the spread of BSE, otherwise known as mad cow disease.

There is certainly a demand for this premium Scotch product
Donald Biggar
Quality Meat Scotland

Before the ban, 42,000 tonnes of beef sales abroad accounted for 120m and 20% of all production in Scotland.

Mr Biggar said: "This is initial consignment of boxed beef - two tonnes - going to Belgium and Holland, to the top restaurants out there."

He said Scotland was looking forward to being able to "access" premium markets in Europe once again.

"Throughout these long 10 years, the Scotch beef industry and Quality Meat Scotland have gone to great lengths to maintain contacts with our customers in Europe - in Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and other countries," he said.

"They are already waiting for and demanding our product but they have in the meantime been supplied by others so we have to compete to get back to the levels we had before the ban."

'Historic day'

Mr Biggar said that Scotland would have to market "aggressively" to get back to previous export levels.

However, he said there was a shortage of beef throughout Europe.

"There is certainly a demand for this premium Scotch product.

Cow and calf
Scotland's beef export market has suffered over the past decade

"They understand the quality of product we have: the breeds, the management, the excellence of husbandry. There are lots of activities going on."

Mr Finnie said: "This is a historic day for the Scottish beef industry."

"We have waited a long time and worked very hard to get back into exports and I know our industry will grasp this opportunity to re-establish our premium product across Europe and beyond."

Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: "Scotland's beef producers have received worldwide recognition for the very high quality of their product and will be delighted by this news for which they have waited for 10 long years.

"The short term aim must be to re-establish full confidence in the product with our European customers and today's first consignment also marks the first step in that process.

"It is clear that considerable demand already exists on mainland Europe."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See what the end of the ban means to the industry



SEE ALSO:
Beef export strategy is launched
28 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Industry welcomes end of beef ban
08 Mar 06 |  Scotland


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