Farmers warn of movement ban costs

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Farmers warned on Sunday that there would still be costs to be borne from the foot-and-mouth outbreak, despite widespread relief that action had been taken quickly to contain the spread of the virus.

The National Farmers’ Union said it was “hopeful” that the devastation of 2001 could be avoided, as the disease had been caught at such an early stage. But even if there are no more cases, farmers will suffer from the imposed movement restrictions.

A spokesman for the NFU said: “Markets can’t take place, farmers can’t trade their livestock. It’s very difficult for farmers to restock. It’s already having an effect, but it’s too early to say at the moment what level of impact there will be.”

Many countries, including other European Union members and the US, banned imports of meat and livestock from the UK when the outbreak was confirmed, and more may do so. These restrictions could take months to lift, damaging farmers’ export markets.

These blows come after a series of troubles for farming. This summer’s floods and unseasonal conditions have damaged large areas of farmland. The potato harvest could be cut by up to 20 per cent, according to estimates, while between 40 and 60 per cent of peas have been lost. Cereal harvests are likely to be down significantly.

The NFU said the immediate ban on livestock movement was an important lesson learnt from the 2001 outbreak, when the government was criticised for failing to impose nationwide movement restrictions as soon as the presence of foot-and-mouth was detected.

Farmers have also been told to step up “biosecurity” procedures such as washing their hands and boots frequently.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the 38 cattle known to be infected had been culled, along with the rest of the affected herds and a neighbouring herd. The dead animals were taken to Somerset to be incinerated in the nearest plant with the necessary facilities.

The dairy industry said its farmers were well prepared to deal with the disease. Jim Begg, director-general of Dairy UK, a trade association representing dairy processors and suppliers, said: “The dairy industry has a very robust set of procedures in place due the extensive homework done following the 2001 outbreak. The quality and integrity of milk is secure and there is no reason for anyone not to continue their consumption of dairy products as usual.”

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