Easing livestock movements on a regional basis could offer the quickest return to normal trading, industry stakeholders have said.
Two approaches to regionalisation are possible. The first is regionalisation on a devolved-country basis this has been widely rejected.
“The devolved regionalisation requires an EU Commission decision,” explained Kevin Pearce NFU food and farming adviser.
So this rests on the outcome of the next EU food chain committee meeting scheduled for the beginning of October which could, therefore, delay the lifting of movement restrictions, said Mr Pearce.
The regionalisation option preferred by the farming industry is to take the UK as a whole and work from high- to low-risk disease areas.
The UK would be split into a surveillance zone around the Surrey cases, with a high-risk area beyond that. Outside the high-risk area would be a lower-risk area where stock could be moved more freely.
“Classifying the UK into different areas according to disease risk offers a better option and can be implemented by UK administrations without seeking EU Commission approval,” Mr Pearce said.
DEFRA is looking at this on the basis of veterinary epidemiological and risk assessment data.
“Once vets are satisfied and should the decision be made to follow the route of risk-based regionalisation, movements could be freed up in low-risk areas, allowing farm-to-farm movements and gathering to take place,” he added.
National Sheep Association chief executive Peter Morris told Farmers Weekly that in the next 10 days it was likely there would be a continual stream of welfare-based movements allowed within holdings, such as allowing rams to move within flocks and allowing movements for dipping.
“Messages industry is putting forward in terms of the financial consequences of the movement ban and subsequent loss of trade are being understood by officials, but they have to balance the trading needs of industry with veterinary and epidemiological risk assessments,” said Mr Morris.
Regarding the lifting of Scottish domestic movement and export restrictions, NFU Scotland stressed that the over-riding emphasis had to be on disease control, with the immediate priority on protecting disease-free areas from possible routes of infection.
NFUS president Jim McLaren emphasised that the union supported dividing the UK into separate areas, defined by disease risk.
Classified areas would need to be large enough to encourage and support normal trade routes and could apply across country borders, added NBA Scotland vice-chairman Hamish McBean.
- The national movement ban remains in place. Limited movements have been permitted outside the surveillance zone for animals going direct to slaughter. For current restrictions visit www.fwi.co.uk/movements or contact the DEFRA helpline 0845 933 5577.
Producers hope splitting UK into regions will free up stock movements quickly.