Swine fever may lead to ban on bacon exports, admits Brown

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British pig farmers could face an EU ban on exports of pork and bacon because of the swine fever outbreak, Nick Brown, the Minister for Agriculture admitted yesterday.

British pig farmers could face an EU ban on exports of pork and bacon because of the swine fever outbreak, Nick Brown, the Minister for Agriculture admitted yesterday.

The EU has already banned exports of live pigs from England after cases of swine fever were confirmed on farms in East Anglia.

It has been the first outbreak of the devastating disease in Britain in 14 years.

The EU veterinary committee is due to meet in Brussels tomorrow to review the ban.

Pig farmers are still hoping the committee will decide to reduce the scope of the present ban, which runs to 31 August, if the Government shows the outbreak has been contained.

Mr Brown told BBC TV's Breakfast with Frost programme that a further ban was a "possible outcome" but insisted such a move was unnecessary and would be resisted.

He said he believed the EU's reaction to the outbreak so far had been "reasonable and proportionate" and he urged it to continue to take a fair line towards British farmers.

Although there had been no new confirmed cases yesterday, Mr Brown said he was still awaiting the outcome of further scientific tests before the Government could be sure the spread of the disease had been halted.

He said he was hopeful the results of the tests, expected today, would prove negative.

"If that is the case we will have a much better idea that this is confined to the existing farms. But I cannot say that with certainty this morning," he said, "I hope that we have got it contained."

Apart from the five farms where the disease has been confirmed, movement restrictions have been imposed on 38 farms around England where there had been suspected cases.

Mr Brown acknowledged that those farmers who were the subject of movement restrictions - unlike those where the disease had been confirmed - were not currently entitled to Government compensation.

However, he said he would need EU permission for any "special measures" he wanted to bring in to help them.

He said: "I am determined that farmers in this country, in the same circumstances, are treated in exactly the same way that they were in Germany and Holland when there were similar outbreaks."

But he ruled out a wider financial package to help the agriculture industry out of its current difficulties.

"The one thing I cannot do is buy out with public money the cyclical problems of the agriculture sector," he said.

The Tories accused Mr Brown of backtracking on assurances over compensation given to pig farmers.

Tim Yeo, the Shadow Agriculture Minister, said: "Nick Brown's dismissive attitude towards compensation for farmers in the surveillance zone, whose businesses are faced with destruction, threatens to cause further distress to cash-strapped farmers."

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