Ed Bedington
The British beef industry is hoping for positive news from the French government over the coming weeks.
The recent announcement by French food agency AFSSA that British beef is as safe as other beef on the French market is still being considered by the country's ministers.
A recommendation is expected to be made in the next few days to the French prime minister who will then decide whether to lift the ban on British products.
The AFSSA announcement has been welcomed by the industry, although a spokesman from the Meat and Livestock Commission pointed out that "it's only the beginning of the process, not the end". If the ban, which was declared illegal by the European Court of Justice, is lifted, France would avoid paying a £100,000-a-day fine threatened by the European Commission in light of the country's continued defiance.
NFU president Ben Gill said: "This whole lamentable situation should never have happened. The French government must now listen to its agency and lift the ban. Unilateral illegal action like this should never be allowed to happen."
As well as the loss of the French market, worth £179m in 1995, the ban has hampered British attempts to begin exporting beef worldwide following BSE.
But Gill hopes the end of the ban will ease that situation: "It does not mean all our problems are over, but it is a removal of the stigma on British beef in the marketplace."
A lifting of the ban will also spell good news for exhibitors at SIAL in Paris this October. At the last show beef was allowed on display at the MLC stand, but not available for tasting.