Farmers' leaders have joined the Government in welcoming the end of Europe's export ban on British beef.
The global embargo on British cattle, beef, and beef products was implemented in March 1996 at the height of the BSE crisis and as Daelnet reported yesterday, EU veterinary experts have recommended that the ban be finally lifted by officials in Brussels.
British beef will soon be back on Europe's menu
Welcoming the move, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, said: "This is excellent news for the British beef industry.
"This EU decision is a vindication of controls on BSE and our efforts to eradicate this disease. Britain's farmers produce high quality beef which will be in demand across Europe once the ban is lifted.
"We know that our beef is, at the very least, as safe as beef produced anywhere else in the EU."
The decade since the ban was introduced has seen major restrictions enforced on British beef farmers and the industry as a whole, including movement restrictions and hygiene regulations.
Once the ban is lifted certain restrictions will remain in place and cattle born before August 1996 will not enter the food chain and will remain excluded from the domestic and export markets.
Highlighting the tough controls that are now in place, National Farmers Union President, Peter Kendall, said: "Since 1996 we have worked tirelessly in Brussels and Whitehall to gain re-admittance to the common market and this decision recognises that the industry has put in place structures which not only meet but exceed European food safety requirements.
"We are now back on an even footing with our competitors in the EC and I believe the quality of the British product will ensure that we begin to recapture our share of beef sales on the continent as soon as the ban is officially lifted."
It is estimated that since 1996 farmers have lost an estimated £675 million in exports and the industry is especially looking forward to rejoining the French market where beef sells on average 25p above what can be expected in the UK.
Following a debate in the European Parliament, it is expected that British beef will be back on menus across the continent within six weeks.