31 August 2001

Effects of F&M will be with us for many years

By Isabel Davies

RURAL communities will suffer for years as a consequence of foot-and-mouth disease, claims the most comprehensive report yet on the impact of the crisis.

The Countryside Agency said the effects of F&M had spread beyond farming and areas immediately affected.

"F&M has had a profound impact on rural areas, created distress and difficulty for many, threatening livelihoods and the very fabric of rural life," said agency chairman Ewen Cameron.

The report, an update to the agencys State of the Countryside document, is one of the first attempts to quantify the impact of F&M in rural areas. It estimates the cost to the national economy this year could be as high as £4bn, but with different regional and local effects.

Tourism has suffered most, says the report. Although difficult to assess the full impact of the outbreak on other sectors of the rural economy, including farming, it forecasts more bankruptcies and fewer jobs. The document predicts that rural communities "will suffer for years to come".

Mr Cameron said: "In the areas hardest hit, such as Cumbria, Devon, parts of Herefordshire, North Yorks and the north-east, its a double blow. Agriculture was al-ready in recession and many households depended on rural tourism and its suppliers for jobs and income."

Nick Way, director of policy at the Country Land and Business Association, said the statistics in the report showed the magnitude of the whole crisis.

"The report corroborates the evidence we have been getting from our rural businesses across the country; falling cashflow, layoffs and knock-on effects on rural communities."

The Countryside Alliance said the report highlighted all aspects of the countryside were affected, from farming and tourism to rural pursuits such as angling, shooting and riding.

Chief executive, Richard Burge said the whole countryside was endangered even if only one aspect of the rural economy was undermined. Real long-term initiatives were needed so people could forge their own future. "The last thing we need is more talking shop initiatives, such as the Sustainable Farming Commission." &#42