FF to push Russian ambassador to end beef ban
FIANNA FAIL is seeking a meeting with the Russian ambassador in a bid to have crippling Irish beef restrictions lifted.
The move comes amid growing pressure on the Department of Agriculture after Russia imposed a blanket ban on imports of beef offal from Ireland in June, withdrawing trade permits for a number of food processing plants.
The surprise move, thought to be unrelated to the EU sanctions row over the situation in Ukraine, excluded plants from the valuable Russian offal market, which was worth €6.6m to processors last year.
The decision has piled pressure on cattle prices for struggling beef farmers.
Fianna Fail senator Marc MacSharry accused the Government of "paralysis" on the issue, saying his party had sought a meeting with Russian Ambassador Maxim Peshkov to lobby for a derogation from the ban.
"Other countries, including Germany and France, have in the past sought and have been granted such a derogation from Russia on beef products," said Senator MacSharry.
The department and the Irish embassy in Moscow has been trying to resolve the issue for the past two months. The Russian move came after an audit of 12 Irish plants, following which all imports of beef offal were temporarily restricted.
Meanwhile, Mr MacSharry said his party was also seeking to have the island of Ireland treated as one.
The move which would prevent Irish beef being labelled as "mixed origin" if it is reared on one side of the border and finished on the other.
"Supermarket multiples and processors must be persuaded to drop movement restrictions within the so-called 'nomadic rule' to permit the normal unrestricted trade between northern and southern Ireland," he said.
"This is not a question of diluting traceability. Rather it is about equality within the provision of safe and quality beef products from all Ireland," he added.
Mr Macsharry said the issue had an adverse impact in particular in the west, northwest and border areas "where a longer winter, smaller holdings and poorer quality land further exasperates the worsening situation".