NFU calls for Brazilian ban

NFU President Peter Kendall has called on the EU Commission urgently to consider banning imports of beef from Brazil, in the light of further reports of serious breaches in cattle identification regulations.

NFU President Peter Kendall has called on the EU Commission urgently to consider banning imports of beef from Brazil, in the light of further reports of serious breaches in cattle identification regulations in a country where foot and mouth disease is endemic.

Speaking at the Herefordshire NFU annual meeting in Hereford last night, (Tuesday), Mr Kendall said: "Livestock farmers across Britain have just endured four months of misery as we have complied with the strictest animal movement and biosecurity regime imaginable, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds, in order to satisfy the EU veterinary authorities that our beef, lamb and pork can safely be allowed back into international trade.

"Had our precautions, and in particular our arrangements for tracking and verifying the movement of livestock, been found wanting in the slightest particular, it would have set back the timetable for the lifting of trade restrictions by months.

"Yet now we understand a very different set of rules applies to our main competitors, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Brazil. In previous inspections, the EU's Food and Veterinary Organisation (FVO) has found serious shortcomings in the arrangements in the Brazilian cattle traceability and other record-keeping arrangements.

"Last year, an investigation by the Irish Farmers Associations found evidence of deliberate malpractice, which suggested that cattle from regions of Brazil where foot and mouth disease is endemic and from which exports are supposed to be banned, were being illegally re-tagged in order to disguise their identity and origin.

"Now we understand that the most recent FVO inspection has identified breaches of animal ID requirements so serious that, according to unconfirmed but entirely plausible reports, the Brazilians have offered to restrict exports themselves in the hope of pre-empting more drastic action by the EU.

"This is not an acceptable situation. The same strict standards should be applied to the traceability of meat imported into the EU as apply to meat produced in the EU, in the interests of consumer protection, disease prevention and fair trade.

"We shall be calling on the EU Commission to act on the findings of the latest FVO inspection without delay and impose an immediate ban on imports from Brazilian beef until the Brazilian authorities have satisfied EU officials that they are fully compliant with the rules.

"That is what has been expected of livestock producers in this country as the price for our meat being allowed back into international trade, and I can see no reason at all why a similar level of compliance should not be expected of our competitors."

The Brazilian Beef Information Service (BBIS) has responded with claims that Kendall is "misguided" in calling for the ban on beef exports from Brazil.

"He has jumped aboard an anti-Brazilian bandwagon without seemingly understanding the facts," said director Rob Metcalfe.

"A ban on Brazilian beef would be bad for consumers and bring no benefit at all to the British farmers he is trying to protect."

According to the BBIS, it is a scientific impossibility for exports of Brazilian beef to present an FMD threat to the EU.

Metcalfe said that, in fact, the EU must be more tightly regulated than Brazil because of its history of disease and its production system. EU regulations were developed in the wake of BSE, a disease which never existed in the Brazil, and the EU regime is designed to deal with small, intensive farming operations where animals are kept in close proximity- a system of farming that does not bear relation to Brazil's extensive year-round grazing.

"That said, Brazilian farmers and exporters are determined to meet whatever standards EU scientists (as opposed to protectionist farmers) stipulate are right for our way of producing beef," he said.

Brazil has supplied Europe with beef for over 75 years and Brazil is now the world's biggest beef exporter. Supporters of Brazilian beef believe that the increased competitive pressure on small intensive beef producers in Ireland and the UK has resulted in an orchestrated campaign of anti-Brazilian beef propaganda.

"The sad thing is that if Brazilian beef was banned, prices would rise, making beef simply unaffordable to many consumers," Metcalfe said.

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