20 June 2001
DEFRA looking to lift pig export ban?

By FWi staff

MINISTERS are reported to be trying to get the foot-and-mouth export ban lifted for some products while it will remain for others.

It is hoped that pork exports could be resumed before restrictions are lifted on beef and lamb, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Huge parts of East Anglia, the countrys main pig producing centre, have remained free of the epidemic.

Another option to resume exports would be to split the country into different areas so that exports could resume from areas free of foot-and-mouth.

But ministers are believed to be unhappy with this as it would require strict policing to prevent meat being drafted across regional boundaries.

Margaret Beckett, head of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), is set to consult farmers on how to regain exports, says the FT.

The National Pig Association has urged DEFRA to apply to the EU for regionalisation of pig exports.

This application would be heard at the 20 July meeting of the EU Standing Veterinary Committee.

Earlier, a leading vet warned that moves to resume full-scale UK livestock trading without approval from Brussels could result in a five-year export ban.

Producers within foot-and-mouth restricted areas can only to trade within these areas, limiting outlets for stock. They are calling for access to other markets.

But at a NFU Wales meeting at Builth Wells on Monday (18 June) night, Waless chief vet Tony Edwards cautioned against rushing to resume full trading.

If this took place before blood testing was complete, and without approval from the EU standing veterinary committee, a five-year ban could result.

At present, exports should be able to resume three months after the last foot-and-mouth case, provided blood testing of sheep in infected areas is complete.

Moves to resume exports are part of a raft of measures being considered by DEFRA to prevent future foot-and-mouth outbreaks and restore the fortunes of farming.

Initiatives could also include the creation of a senior operations and delivery post to improve communications between Whitehall and regional staff.

The new post would acknowledge farmers criticisms that officials were often unaware of what was happening on the ground.

The Royal Society is also investigating how the disease took hold and how Britain was hit by foot-and-mouth and swine fever within a year.

  • Financial Times, 20 June, 2001, page 5

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