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Country & Farming: Welsh beef on menu at Paris show; EXPORTS: France `must pay'.

Byline: SHEILA COLEMAN

WELSH beef will be back in France later this month - at an international food trade show.

Farmer co-operative Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions will be displaying Welsh beef and handing out samples at Sial, the Paris exhibition that's expected to attract more than 130,000 visitors between October 20-24.

The branded Welsh beef, processed at the St Merryn Foods plant in Merthyr Tydfil, will also be served to French customers, buyers and media at a buyers' reception hosted by WLBP on October 22.

The move has been made possible by last week's announcement that France is to end its illegal ban on British beef.

Don Thomas, WLBP managing director, said, ``We have already achieved much success with branded Welsh Lamb in the French market, which gives us a great opportunity for branded Welsh Beef.

``Our recent success exporting Welsh Beef to Holland clearly indicates that we not only have a product that is in demand on the continent, but we are also capable of supplying it commercially.''

The lifting of the ban came exactly a week after the first consignment of beef from the UK, which was branded Welsh Beef, was exported to Holland to a major catering distributor VEN Internationale Versmarkt. Rural Development Minister, Michael German, who will visit Sial, said, ``Arrangements to lift the ban need to be completed as quickly as possible so that our exporters can work towards recovering the important French market.''

There were calls for France to pay hefty financial penalties for maintaining the ban.

``Welsh farmers incurred sig-nificant losses as a result of the ban, and I want to see the French government being made to pay for its unlawful and unjustified actions,'' said Plaid Cymru Euro MP, Eurig Wyn.

Farmers' Union of Wales president Bob Parry agreed, ``I hope that the EU will continue the procedure to fine France for their willful disregard for the rule of law. The French have acted disgracefully by maintaining the ban simply to protect their own domestic market.''

National Farmers' Union Cymru president, Peredur Hughes, said France could not go unpunished.

``The European Commission must not let the matter drop now that the French have lifted the ban. It is totally unacceptable that such a clearly illegal ban has been able to be imposed for this length of time,'' he said.

``It is equally unacceptable that the French can walk away from this disgraceful situation at the last possible moment before fines are imposed.''

Advice

FRANCE'S decision to lift the ban follows advice last month from AFSSA, the French food standards agency, that British beef exports were now safe to eat.

France has steadfastly refused to open its markets to British beef for the past three years despite a European Union expert committee giving it a clean bill of health.

The European Union-wide ban on British beef was imposed in 1996 because of public health concerns about mad cow disease, but lifted in 1999 after an expert committee concluded there was no longer a risk.

In 1995 Britain exported 80,000 tonnes of beef to France valued at pounds 170m.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Nov 8, 2002
Words:517
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