Relief for farming industry as livestock markets resume

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The Independent Online

There was some relief for the beleaguered farming industry today as livestock markets resumed in parts of the UK.

Animal health officials gave the go-ahead for markets to take place in Scotland, Wales and parts of England not considered to be at risk of foot and mouth disease or bluetongue.

But farmers inside the risk areas in the south east of England are still unable to take their animals to market.

The markets have reopened in parts of the country as the EU announced that British beef and lamb exports are set to resume on October 12 - as long as there are no more foot and mouth outbreaks beyond the 200km (124 mile) high-risk area in Surrey.

The decision was taken by EU veterinary experts from the 27 member states, but the whole of Great Britain remains a "high-risk" category area with strict conditions surrounding the consumption of meat exports from most of the country.

The foot and mouth disease risk area covers Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex, according to the website of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Alastair Johnston, livestock advisor for the National Farmers' Union, said: "Farmers are relieved they've got the restrictions lifted and they've got an open market."

But due to cash flow, grazing and breeding pressures at what is the busiest time of year for the livestock trade, it would be a buyer's market, he said.

"It is yet to be seen what the prices are doing," he said.

Foot and mouth has been identified at eight farms in Surrey since August 3, with the latest case confirmed near Wraysbury on Sunday.

England's farming community is also reeling from the UK's first cases of bluetongue.

Bluetongue control and protect zones have been put in place in parts of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.

Vets have confirmed 11 cases of the virus - 10 in the Ipswich area and one near Lowestoft, Suffolk.

The bluetongue protection zone imposed by Defra spans a 93-mile (150km) radius from the outbreak of the disease in Suffolk.

Its boundaries range from East Sussex in the south to Lincolnshire in the north.