Thursday, 29 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
96. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the major growth areas for exports of beef; the markets which have been re-opened; the markets which have closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30375/01]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (Mr. Walsh): Over the past year beef exports to continental EU and third country markets have been adversely affected by the BSE crisis in mainland Europe late last year. While no BSE related restrictions on Irish beef or beef products have been imposed by the EU Commission or by any individual member state of the EU loss of consumer confidence in beef has led to reduced beef consumption in mainland Europe. While exports to continental markets have fallen substantially over the past year, I am happy to say that that decline has been offset by increased beef exports to the UK. Exports to this market are running at about double last year's levels and the indications are that this level of trade will continue for the foreseeable future. Beef consumption in the EU as a whole is steadily recovering from the serious collapse which took place in late 2000. This is due to a restoration of confidence in the product as a result of measures taken at EU level. The market support measures  put in place to deal with the overhang of product on the market have had a useful effect in helping to restore balance. All of this will help Ireland's efforts to regain our former levels of sales to the markets in question.
Efforts at political, diploma and technical level are continuing to secure the reopening of important third country markets, most of which were closed to us following the BSE crisis last year. The Russian market for Irish beef, which was closed following the FMD crisis re-opened earlier this year. My Department, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Bord Bia has worked intensively to point out to the authorities in those markets the level and effectiveness of the controls in place in Ireland and to emphasise the guarantees in relation to food safety we can offer to consumers of Irish beef. Particular attention was given to Egypt, as our largest single market for beef exports and, as the Deputy will be aware, we have been successful in regaining access to this significantly important market. It is hoped that the re-opening of the Egyptian market will help towards the re-opening of other important markets in the region and elsewhere and efforts towards this end are continuing.
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