Restrictions eased on farms

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Restrictions put in place to help prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease and bluetongue will be eased from next week, it was announced yesterday.

The Government said a 3km protection zone around farms infected with foot and mouth in Egham, Surrey, would be lifted on Wednesday provided there were no more suspected cases.

In addition, controls on the movement of livestock in low risk areas would be removed - giving a welcome boost to thousands of farmers around the country.

The Government also announced changes in restrictions brought in following the outbreak of bluetongue in farms in the south east of England.

Markets within the bluetongue control and protection zones - which stretch from Lincolnshire to East Sussex - are to be permitted from midnight on Sunday.

In addition, movement to approved slaughterhouses outside the zones will be allowed.

Today's announcements will give further relief to UK farmers, coming on the back of the resumption of meat exports to European Union member states.

The decision to lift the foot and mouth protection zone in Surrey follows extensive surveillance in the area, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

But a larger surveillance zone in Surrey will remain in place, until at least November 5.

Announcing the changes, Fred Landeg, the deputy chief veterinary officer, said: "We are well aware of the economic impacts of movement restrictions and the removal of the GB movement ban, outside of the FMD Risk Area, should help the farming industry start to get back to business-as-usual.

"The resumption of markets and movements to a larger number of slaughterhouses should also ease the impact felt by farmers within the bluetongue zones."

He added: "Throughout the outbreak we have acted on the evidence, keeping controls proportionate to the disease risk.

"We will continue to work in partnership with the farming industry to review the size of the movement restrictions in place to look at any measures we can take to relieve the burden on farmers and businesses wherever the risk level permits."

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers Union, welcomed the news.

He said: "The restrictions across the country have been causing enormous problems for the whole marketing of livestock.

"It is a step forward but there is still more to do. Without properly functioning markets, prices have been devastatingly low."