The British beef sector celebrated the resumption of normal exports to Europe on Wednesday - and immediately turned its attention to countries outside the EU that have yet to lift their ban.

There are around 80 countries where the ban on UK beef imports is still in place and Defra farming and food minister Lord Bach this week pledged that the government would speak to every one of them about lifting their restrictions.

Switzerland has already lifted its ban. It was one of the first countries to ban British beef and cattle due to BSE back in 1990. The lifting of the ban takes effect from June 5.

Chairman of the English Beef and Lamb Executive John Cross welcomed the move. "This is extremely good news," he said. "There is a job of work to be done in re-opening a host of countries outside the EU.

"We will have to negotiate individually with each one and this move by the Swiss is very welcome. We will be encouraging others to follow their example."

The MLC's meat export manager JP Garnier said that there was a priority list of non-EU export targets, which included Hong Kong, Norway, Romania and South Africa, and that discussions with these countries were ongoing.

Back in 1995, South Africa was the largest market for British beef outside the EU, taking 27,000 tonnes a year. This represented a significant chunk of the 52,000 tonnes exported in total to non-EU countries.

But Garnier warned: "A lot has changed. Back in 1995, the EU was a net exporter of beef and enjoyed export refunds. Today it is a net importer."

It was difficult to predict what the volumes of possible beef exports to countries outside the European Union would be, he added. Non-EU exports were expected to be about 5% of total beef exports.