2015 began with interesting news for the international meat market. After 15 years, the United States is set to allow cattle imports from the European Union, in particular from Ireland. Import trade in beef, even off the bone, was banned in 1998 because of repeated cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Bse), better-known as mad cow disease, at the time in Europe.
To prevent the risk of contagion, Washington adopted a series of measures that even went beyond the standards defined by the World Animal Health Organisation: for example, according to the OIE, it would have been able to sell boneless beef safely in all countries irrespective of their Bse status. However, efforts made in recent years by EU countries as regards controls carried out on livestock in question have ensured that a risk status equal to or better than the majority of other producers.
Allowing imports from Ireland is only the first step towards the establishment of less restrictive relationships with other EU member countries. According to Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health, Cecilia Malmström, EU Trade Commissioner, and Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, “the European Union also hopes to see restrictions on sheep and goat meat lifted and that the United States will adjust its import conditions in line with international standards. With the opening of the US market, Washington launches an important signal to its EU trading partners, namely that European beef is safe and that imports can be quickly resumed.”
However, not everyone is enthusiastic over this decision. The most serious doubts were expressed by Francois Tomei, director of Assocarni, the National Meat and Livestock Trade and Industry Association, which in a press release published on its website pointed out that “the EU Commission should realise the failure of a single policy on EU exports and its inadequacy in providing third countries sufficient, unique standards for opening up exports by various member states.”
Italy, unlike Ireland, with a “controlled” Bse risk, was declared in 2013 to free from disease on an international scale and is still waiting for a response from the US Administration about resuming trade in Italian beef cattle. “Italy must also learn how to apply some self-criticism since it is utterly pointless for top level Government to find resources for promoting Italian food and beverage around the world if competent authorities are then unable to work effectively to remove the non-tariff barriers that prevent our products reaching markets where there is demand for them.”
Source: Eurocarne Outlook