Incomplete backoffice IT systems are holding back the export of British beef, despite the lifting of the European Union ban.
Databases created to track the 11.5 million cattle in the UK and which 'underpinned' the lifting of the export ban will not be ready until the end of the year.
The EU said last week that from 1 August, the UK will be allowed to export cattle born after 1 August 1996 for which full documentation is available. IT staff responsible for creating a tracking system said they had not known when it would be needed.
David Crellin, head of operations at the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), said: "We weren't sure of the date when the EU would say yes. Until the whole national herd is recorded on the system, there will only be a small amount of animals available for export."
Currently, the cattle tracing system (CTS) holds only 5.5 million records for cattle born or imported into the UK since 1 July, 1996, not all of which will be beef cows.
In April, EU scientific advisors gave a positive assessment of the UK's BSE measures, but expressed reservations over the accuracy of the database. Since then, the BCMS has reduced the error rate to about two per cent, and the system has been approved by the EU.
There is an implied threat from the EU that if the UK's systems are not effective, the ban will be reimposed. Northern Ireland was permitted to export small quantities of beef over the past year under the export certified herds scheme, only to be banned again in May following problems with its system.
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