Commissioner comments applauded by UFU

Farming representatives in Northern Ireland have welcomed comments made by a leading European Union dignitary that beef imports need to meet the standards expected of exports.

Speaking at the World Meat Congress in Cape Town, Danish commissioner for agriculture and rural development Mariann Fischer Boel said that anyone who wants to export beef to EU countries would have to match the high safety standards expected of beef producers in the EU when they export to other countries.

Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) president Graham Furey said: "This is an issue that the EU has repeatedly been weak on and it is only recently that the Commission has started to take a stronger line. EU farmers must comply with strict production standards, which inevitably lead to higher costs.

"Cheap food imports to the EU, produced to a lesser standard, are unacceptable. Our constant lobbying on Brazilian beef was eventually vindicated and it is encouraging to see our farm commissioner adopting a clear stance on this issue."

Commissioner Fischer Boel was speaking in a keynote speech on 'Meeting the Policy Challenges' at the bi-annual event in South Africa, where she called for a fairer balance of practice between EU exporters and non-EU exporters.

Fischer Boel said: "We have been rigorously enforcing high standards, and we have restored our solid reputation for safety and quality. It is essential that anyone who wants to export to the EU meets our safety standards.

"Those standards are not arbitrary - nor were they dreamt up to act as a barrier to trade. They are in place because European citizens demand them. In a market where food safety scares have caused so much damage, high standards are the essential foundation of consumer confidence.

"On the other hand, I'm a firm believer in the importance of trade, and I want to see these problems cleared up as soon as possible. We are doing what we can to help Brazilian producers meet European requirements, and I trust that these efforts will bear fruit in the medium term."