The ban on exports of meat and live animals from England, Scotland and Wales will not be lifted until 25 August at the earliest, EU vets have decided.
Farming and meat industry representatives had hoped that the EU may adopt a “regionalised” approach, so that at least Wales and Scotland, which are many miles away from the foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey, could resume their export business.
But EU vets, at the request of the UK government, agreed to keep the whole of GB as a “high risk” zone for foot and mouth. They will review the situation at their next meeting on 23 August, with a possible lifting of the export ban for certain regions from 25 August.
At the meeting of EU vets in Brussels yesterday evening, it was also confirmed that Northern Ireland should be exempt from all foot and mouth restrictions, and that meat from Northern Ireland can travel through Great Britain en-route for export destinations, subject to certain precautionary measures.
NFU Brussels director, Maeve White, said it was good news that a possible date for lifting the export ban in other parts of GB had been tabled.
But Euro-MP, and chairman of the European parliament’s agriculture committee, Neil Parish, said waiting another two weeks before even reassessing the situation was unnecessary.
“The EU was right to take a precautious approach to this outbreak in the beginning, but farmers will question the decision of the EU standing committee to put off meeting again for another fortnight.
“The European Commission has to balance safety concerns against the long-term damage this export ban is causing the whole agricultural industry in Britain, and I think the committee should review the situation again in a week at the latest.
“Our beef export markets have been recovering well – especially for older beef – and it is essential we do not experience unnecessary delays in reopening the market, which would increase the risk of farmers losing contracts.”
For complete foot and mouth coverage, see our special report page