Four of the UK’s farming unions have joined forces to call for a suspension of live cattle and sheep imports from bluetongue-infected areas of the continent.

The leaders of the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union issued a statement after a meeting in Brussels.

“The risks to the beef and sheep sector from imported stock carrying BTV8 or BTV1 are huge.

“Because of this we urge the government to suspend all imports of live cattle and sheep from these areas.

“We are conscious that the EU Commission is also looking at changing the bluetongue zones. “We want to look closely at the details of that, but our strong principle is to reduce the risk of contracting bluetongue while maintaining a strong market inside the UK.”

The farming leaders also discussed at the meeting: EID, cost and responsibility sharing, the EU pesticide proposals, the implementation of the recent CAP Health Check, and the implications for farming of the current credit crunch on retailer and banking behaviour.