DEFRAhalts Ulster cattle trade
DEFRA has suspended all cattle exports from GB to Northern Ireland following a spat with Belfast about the terms and conditions applying to the trade.
Under interim arrangements following foot-and-mouth, the NI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development requires that all imported cattle be individually tested for TB within 30 days before shipment. That is the same condition that applies for trade between EU member states and DARD wants it made permanent for trade with GB.
But DEFRA only requires that cattle for export come from herds that are TB-free. It objects to stricter terms being applied for sales within the UK and last week took the decision to suspend all licences. It is concerned that Northern Ireland is aligning itself with Dublin as part of its effort to establish an all-Ireland health policy.
A spokesman for DEFRA confirmed that trade had been suspended, but said discussions were ongoing at the highest level. "There are constitutional issues at stake, but we are optimistic we can resolve our differences."
One dairy farmer to fall foul of the dispute is Andrew Timbury from Maulden, Beds. He was due to send 22 breeding cows to Northern Ireland last Sunday (Aug 4).
A tip-off from his haulier alerted him to the fact there could be a problem. "A phone call to London confirmed the licenses had been suspended. No explanation was given as to why the licenses were revoked or how long it would last." *