Swiss approve British beef

Cattle and beef exports to Switzerland have been cleared, making it the first country outside the EU to lift its ban on British beef.

Switzerland was one of the first countries to ban British beef and cattle because of BSE back in 1990. The lifting of the ban takes effect from 5 June 2006.

John Cross, chairman of the English Beef and Lamb Executive, said,“This is extremely good news. Though the EU ban has been lifted, there is a job of work to be done in re-opening a host of countries outside the EU. We will have to negotiate individually with each one and this move by the Swiss is very welcome. We will be encouraging others to follow their example.

“We know that winning this trade back from the existing suppliers is going to be hard work, but a carefully targeted programme of promotional activity is already happening.

Ten years ago, before export restrictions were placed on British beef due to BSE, the country’s beef trade was worth £520 million a year. Britain exported 274,000 tonnes of fresh and frozen beef to customers in France, Italy, Irish Republic, South Africa and the Netherlands.

Many importers have indicated they will welcome back the product and the bulk of initial demand is expected to come from foodservice wholesalers and catering butchers. The product will be marketed as a premium product sold at a premium price.

A number of Southern European markets such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece favour the meat from very young bulls for leanness and tenderness. Young bull producers who until now were despairing of returns will be able to find a complete range of outlets for their products.

Central European countries such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania have also indicated their willingness to buy English cow meat, although price will be the deciding factor in the short term.

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