Byline: DAVID McCOY
A MAJOR breakthrough in Ireland's ongoing efforts to regain non- European Union beef export markets which were either closed or restricted as a result of BSE, has been announced.
Russia, which had restricted supply of beef from cattle born in certain counties, this week agreed to lift restrictions and allow beef to be supplied from the whole of the 26 counties.
Prior to this, beef from Cavan, Monaghan, Meath, Limerick, Cork and Wexford could not be sold to Russia.
A ban on counties was first put in place by Russia in 1996.
Joe Walsh, Minister for Agriculture and Food, said that this was excellent news and came at an important time for the Irish cattle and beef sector.
He said the decision by Russia had been taken following an assessment by the Russian authorities of the BSE situation in Ireland and the effectiveness of the controls implemented by his Department throughout the sector.
Among the factors taken into account in this were the continued improvement in the age profile of BSE cases in Ireland and the stringency of the control regime in place.
The decision followed on from relentless contacts between the Irish and Russian authorities and represented a strong vote of confidence in the safety and quality of Irish beef by one of the major beef importers in the world, he added.
This week's decision represented a major success in a campaign which had been incessant since restrictions had first been imposed on the Irish market.
This campaign had been carried out at political, technical and diplomatic level, involving the employment of the full resources of the State, including Irish embassies in the relevant markets and An Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board).
Mr Walsh said that the underlying approach in this effort had been to demonstrate in full to the relevant experts from the importing countries the measures in place to guarantee the effectiveness of the controls.
Intensive efforts were continuing in relation to all of Ireland's traditional markets, including the Gulf States and South Africa, as well as Indonesia and Philippines.
The Minister revealed that he has invited the veterinary and food safety experts from the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE, to a workshop on the safety of Ireland's beef sector in Dublin in early October.
Following his visit to South Africa, a detailed on-the-spot assessment of Ireland's system by South African experts had taken place in June and an outcome was expected shortly.
He hoped to build on the success so far in relation to these and other importing countries.
This had been the approach used in the decision last October by the Egyptian authorities to reopen their market to Irish beef.
While the trade so far has been small, the Minister said that he was hopeful this autumn would see a return to a greater volume of exports to this market also. …