By Peter Crichton

ON 18 May, MAFF was able to announce that Thursday (17 May) was the first day since 19 February with no new recorded foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

This gave the UK pig industry further hope that we may be heading towards some form of limited export trade restarting later in the year.

Ian Campbell of the NPA has set out a possible timetable that could be adopted by MAFF providing that foot-and-mouth disease remains “under control”.

At a meeting with Baroness Hayman, junior agriculture minister, and chief vet Jim Scudamore with other MAFF staff last week, the possibility of a return to exports on a regional basis was discussed.

This would help to lift the collapsed cull sow market which is causing breeders throughout the UK massive physical and financial problems.

Currently, former export oriented UK abattoirs have had little demand for sow meat on the home market and are quoting producers prices at 15p/kg.

If the regional export option was viable, Ian Campbell suggests that the UK could be split up into “clean” areas including northern Scotland, and eastern and southern England.

However it is unlikely that such large areas of the country could be classified in this way until all the internal “at risk” counties (ARAs) had been brought up to provisionally free status (PFA).

Once Brussels was satisfied of the foot-and-mouth status of these areas an application could be made for pigmeat exports to restart.

A suggested timetable for these applications is three months after the last recorded infected premises within the current ARA.

Pig movements within the UK will continue to be subject to restrictions for the foreseeable future.

The best producers can hope for is likely to be a self certification system subject to a 20-day standstill period following all stock movements on to the premises in question.

The NPA is pressing for a return to the old “weaner breeder” type licence, which would avoid exempt premises being shut down for 20 days.

They also hope that single operators with multi-site operations might be able to move between all these premises on some form of longer distance occupational licence arrangement.

Currently any movements of this nature are subject to vet inspections.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry

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