Under the OTMS approximately 800,000 cattle are slaughtered in the UK annually, of which close on 140,000 are slaughtered in Northern Ireland. Any decision by the UK authorities to change the conditions of the OTMS is not expected until after July this year.
The impact on the beef market of a change to the OTMS is being monitored by my Department and An Bord Bia. Until a decision is made on the date and form of any change to the scheme its impact on Ireland's beef trade with the UK cannot be fully assessed. The negative effect of any change to the OTMS on trade patterns in 2004 will however be mitigated by the substantial reduction in EU beef intervention stocks in 2003 and the return to a more balanced overall EU market.