Convincing EU vets to lift the ban on exports of British meat, dairy products and live animals is likely to be more difficult than it was in August following the latest outbreaks of foot-and-mouth.
Then, the EU imposed a ban on exports as soon as F&M was confirmed on 3 August, but lifted it again on 24 August, once the food chain committee (SCOFCAH) was satisfied that the disease was no longer in circulation.
But Brussels sources have indicated that they will be much more circumspect this time round.
“Last time everyone was amazed when, not only did the committee lift the ban on meat and dairy exports after just three weeks, but also allowed live animals to be exported too. It’s not going to be anything like as quick this time – certainly not for live animals.”
The food chain committee met this week on Tuesday (18 September) and confirmed that exports from Great Britain should be banned at least until 15 October. This followed a presentation by DEFRA of the latest situation following the three cases of F&M in the Egham area of Surrey.
The committee heard that the outbreak was localised in an area with low livestock density and few animal movements. For example, within the 3km protection zone there were just 71 holdings with susceptible livestock, and there were no markets, staging posts or assembly centres.
The food chain committee will meet again on 2 October.
But the timetable for lifting the export ban is totally divorced from that for lifting the protection and surveillance zones, which can happen 15 and 30 days respectively after cleansing and disinfecting the last Infected Premises.
As for exports outside the EU, this will be determined by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which only grants F&M-free status three months after the slaughter of animals on the last Infected Premises. That would be 18 December, assuming no more cases.
Meanwhile, EU Food and Veterinary Office inspectors have been in the UK this week to study the origin and spread of F&M and the conditions at Pirbright. It could be several months before their report is published.
DEFRA moved quickly to contain the disease, but the EU will need more convincing before it lifts the export ban.