Northern Ireland to resume exports
By Philip Clarke
EXPORTS of meat, milk and dairy products can resume from most of Northern Ireland from next Tuesday (Apr 3), Brussels decided this week, so long as there are no further cases of foot-and-mouth disease.
So far, the province has had just one case, on a farm in Meigh in South Armagh on Mar 1. Some 2500 animals were slaughtered in the area.
"Northern Ireland can now move towards being treated as a separate region of the UK in relation to foot-and-mouth," said agriculture minister Brid Rogers. "Producers and processors can plan to begin again to export the full range of their goods throughout the EU."
But the Ulster Farmers Union has expressed dismay that the export ban was not lifted immediately. "The EU commission has granted regionalisation for France, Holland and the Republic of Ireland within hours of these countries reporting first cases," said president Douglas Rowe. "Local farmers will be furious at clearly being treated with less urgency."
He also regretted that export restrictions would stay in place even longer for farmers in Newry and Mourne, the district around the Meigh case. This is because 30 days has to pass from the containment of the disease before an application can be made for restrictions to be lifted.
Before any exports can resume, however, the authorities have to complete a new cull of all sheep in a corridor of land connecting the 3km protection zone around Meigh with another 3km zone around Proleek in the Republic of Ireland, which has also had a case.
The single case in the Republic late last week has led to aggressive culling in Co Louth. About 3000 sheep and 1000 cattle were taken out immediately within 1km of the outbreak. Since then, a further 17,000 sheep have been slaughtered and rendered within 3km.
This week, Dublin said there were another 7000 to kill on common land and in the Proleek-Meigh corridor. Animal movements within an extended exclusion zone, covering much of Louth, are also prohibited.
Ireland has also had to contend with additional trade restrictions imposed by Brussels. Exports of all live susceptible species, plus ova, sperm and embryos, are banned. And sales of fresh meat and meat products, unpasteurised milk and milk products from Louth are forbidden.
These restrictions apply until Apr 19, subject to there being no further foot-and-mouth cases, EU vets declared this week. *