10 October 2000
MAFF hampers swine-fever efforts

By Alistair Driver

THE Ministry of Agriculture has admitted that its focus on preventing the spread of swine fever in East Anglia has hampered efforts to get restriction zones lifted.

The ministry is now trying to recruit vets and people to carry out blood tests from the USA and Holland to make up for the shortage of experts from Britain.

A MAFF spokeswoman said the priority so far has been to stop the disease, which has taken vital resources away from performing the tasks needed to get the zones lifted.

She added: “The ministry is now considering focussing all its resources on one zone at a time so they can be lifted one by one.”

MAFF has already had help from vets from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Holland in an effort to get restriction zones lifted around 15 infected farms.

But hundred of farmers are still caught up within restriction zones and unable to move or sell their pigs. Some have been under restriction for two months now.

The spokeswoman said: “We have simply run out of quality staff and are looking at recruiting small numbers of staff from abroad.”

At a recent meeting with pig industry leaders MAFF chief vet Jim Scudamore said he understood it was important for farmers to be able to plan for the lifting of restrictions.

Work on controlling the disease must come first, he said, warning that the industry must refrain from raising false expectations that all restriction zones will be lifted soon.