The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the export of Irish beef to China has been suspended temporarily as a result of a case of "Atypical BSE".

The decision was made after a 14-year-old-cow tested positive.

The cow was tested as part of the department's surveillance of "fallen" animals. It had died on a farm and was tested at a knackery.

The detection of an Atypical BSE case is not a factor in changing Ireland's BSE risk status and will not affect the country's current "controlled risk" status.

The department confirmed this afternoon that in line with a protocol agreed with Chinese authorities, the export of beef has been "voluntarily suspended".

The result of an epidemiological report is to be discussed with Chinese authorities.

There are no public health risks associated with this case, says the department.

The last confirmed case of BSE occurred in Galway in 2017, in an 18-year-old cow. The case was also atypical and presented no issue to public health, according to experts.

Exports to China had already been impacted by Covid-19.

The export market is seen as important, as China consumes a large volume of beef.

A recent Bord Bia visit to China helped further grow the country as an export destination.

More than 3,000 tonnes of Irish beef have already been exported to China this year.

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Irish Farmers' Association President Tim Cullinan said the suspension of access was disappointing and that it must be resolved quickly.

"Under the protocol, Ireland is required to submit a detailed epidemiological report," he said.

"Given the nature of this case, once the report is reviewed by the Chinese authorities, there should be no delay in regaining access," he said.

He added: "The Chinese market took 10,000 tonnes of Irish beef last year and 2,900 tonnes had gone there in the first quarter of 2020.

"This is a relatively small amount and accounts for less than 2% of our beef exports. However, it's an important and growing market.

"We need to get back there as a matter of urgency."