The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) scientific commission for animal disease has concluded that Ireland now fulfils the requirements to be recognised as having a negligible risk for BSE, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has confirmed.

The announcement followed an evaluation of a detailed submission made by the Department of Agriculture to the OIE last autumn.

This is a most welcome and very significant step forward

The OIE’s scientific commission has recommended this recognition be submitted for endorsement by the OIE World Assembly of Delegates at the 88th general session in May 2021.

Minister McConalogue said: “This is a most welcome and very significant step forward towards Ireland achieving negligible risk status in respect of BSE, affirming the robustness of the Ireland’s animal health, food and feed safety controls and providing further independent affirmation in the international market place of the strength of Ireland’s control systems.”

New opportunities

Two further steps are needed before this status is officially recognised.

Firstly, a 60-day period within which all 182 member countries of the OIE may request any information substantiating this decision should they wish to do so.

Secondly, the proposal must receive a favourable vote at the General Assembly of the OIE in May.

We can look forward with reasonable confidence towards achieving this status

Minster McConalogue said: “Whilst we must await the outcome of these two final stages in the process but I am optimistic and hopeful for our world-class beef farmers and the wider sector.

“We can look forward with reasonable confidence towards achieving this status which reflects very significant commitment by all stakeholders, ably led by officials in my Department.

“Negligible risk status will support our continued efforts around international market access and assist in opening new trade opportunities in respect of Irish beef products.”

Impact on farmers

On the ground nothing will change for Irish farmers in terms of regulation.

The benefits for farmers will be much more subtle in that they will fall direct to factories through reduced costs, better access to markets and, of course, a higher animal health status will make the marketing of Irish beef internationally an easier job.

The combined effect of these benefits should leave more money for factories to spend on Irish cattle, but there won’t be an extra line on the remittance docket explaining the extra value.