Scotland’s red meat industry is entering a critical week
with crunch talks in Brussels on unwinding European export restrictions
set to begin.
The Brussels veterinary committee, the Standing Committee on Food
Chain and Animal Health (ScoFCaH), will meet on Thursday when member
states will consider the latest disease situation and its implications
for exports from Scotland and the rest of Great Britain.
NFU Scotland is continuing to work with the Rural Affairs Secretary,
Scottish Executive officials, vets, meat wholesalers and retailers on
unwinding foot and mouth-related restrictions. The latest relaxation
allows farmers to move animals within their own business, providing the
movements are no further than 8 kilometres. On top of this, farmers
in Scotland’s islands can now move animals under general licence
to a farm on the mainland. Welfare movements of up to 50 km, and
in some cases 100km for pigs, can also now be arranged under a specific
NFUS President Jim McLaren said:
“Informal talks with European Commission officials on exports
begin today. The importance of getting Scottish red meat back into Europe
cannot be over-estimated. All the current evidence suggests the
disease has been contained within a few square kilometres in Surrey,
allowing us to pursue options for getting Great Britain’s meat
export trade back up and running.
“The domestic movement restrictions have hit hard. The 10
or more individual relaxations we’ve had so far have been important
and they keep getting added to. We stressed last week that movement
of animals within a business for management, as well as welfare, reasons
was a top priority and I’m pleased they now have the go-ahead.
“Talks also continue on the use of collection centres for slaughter
stock. Collection of animals from farms to go to abattoirs is limited
to single-pick-ups, making many journeys uneconomic. Therefore
options for operating collection centres, where farmers could take their
stock to a single point to be collected by hauliers, are being explored. That
is obviously not ideal for pigs, so discussions will continue on alternative
options for them.
“Much has been made of the proposed 10 September start date for
livestock sales. If the disease situation remains as it is, I view
this as the worst-case scenario. The date could move forward and
we’ll be pushing to get the earliest possible resumption. It
is particularly critical for the sheep sector as delays in sales will
have a knock-on impact well beyond this summer.
“Much more may be clear on that front and others after this Thursday’s
Brussels meeting. I emphasise again the importance of the general
movement ban – our compliance with it is the reason we have been
able to press for speedy relaxation of restrictions and will hopefully
lead to a good hearing in Brussels in Thursday.”
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