THE UK beef industry received positive news last week as the United States (US) agreed equivalence of standards on the UK’s control measures following a three-week inspection last summer.
The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a statement on March 6 confirming that the UK meets the equivalence criteria for FSIS to recognise it as a single food safety inspection system that encompasses England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales and that the UK is eligible to export raw beef products to the US derived from cattle slaughtered on and after March 6, 2020. It means that after the final administrative details are carried out, beef can be shipped to the US.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) beef and lamb chairman Sam Chesney said the announcement is a positive result for Northern Ireland (NI) beef farmers and the timing of this could not be more fitting.
Mr Chesney said, “This is good news for the sector at a time when our beef farmers are facing huge uncertainty as trade talks with the European Union continues. Beef farmers are currently suffering as a result of low farm gate prices and incomes. The government needs to work as efficiently as possible with the industry so beef farmers on the ground see the benefit of this deal.”
The UFU beef and lamb chairman says the UFU wants to ensure that the government and industry capitalise on this agreement. “This is an opportunity for beef farmers in NI to increase exports as a result of gaining direct access to the US market. We have a world-class food industry and farm to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards.
“This export deal is worth around £66 million over the first five years and will provide a much-needed boost for the beef sector. It is vital that all stakeholders work continuously to get the final administrative details carried out so NI beef can be shipped to the US.”
Welcoming the news, Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) Chief Executive, Ian Stevenson said: “This agreement of equivalence in standards is the result of a long period of hard work and collaboration from industry and government representatives.
“Without the diligence, professionalism and commitment of DAERA alongside the cooperation and willing assistance from NIMEA and of course our other UK counterparts and members of the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) this process would simply not have been successful. The inspections in August 2019 included tours of five beef sites, four pork and one lamb from across the UK, as well as several laboratories.
“Gaining this access to the US market is extremely positive and will allow our beef export business to actively pursue new opportunities for our high quality, safe and certified beef industry.”
The USDA first cleared the way for the EU to resume beef exports to the US when it aligned its BSE regulations with international standards in 2014. Following this decision each EU country had to be inspected on a case-by-case basis and only a handful, including ROI, have achieved this to date.
Following the developments last week the UK is now a step closer to joining ROI as a supplier of beef to the US. Work will continue on gaining similar access for sheepmeat.
Currently, the UK has 11 certified plants that produce and export raw pork products to the US. Before last year’s audit UK authorities provided FSIS with ten additional establishments across the UK intending, but not yet certified, to export raw beef or sheep meat to the US.
Continuing to praise the efforts of those involved in bringing about the signing of this Protocol, Ian added: “LMC has been participating in the work of the UKECP for over ten years. Achieving market access to the US for UK beef exporters has been one of the key priorities for government and industry members of the partnership and this exciting development is testament to the hard work of everyone involved in the process.”