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NBA Scotland Advises Caution Over Regionalisation
19/09/07

Suggestions that “regionalisation” offered the best and quickest route for Scotland to get back to normal livestock trading were cautioned yesterday by the National Beef Association Scotland.

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Regionalisation, the separation of a country within the UK requires Brussels approval and would be a lengthy exercise, according to NBA Scotland chairman, Iain Mathers.

Classifying areas according to distance from any foot-and-mouth outbreak – irrespective of country boundaries – offered a better option and could be implemented by the UK Government without seeking EU approval.

“Regionalisation for Scotland would actually hinder the early removal of existing tight livestock movement restrictions because of the time it would take to secure Brussels approval,” said Mr Mathers. “It would also have long-term implications for trade in livestock and livestock products between Scotland and England.”

Scotland currently imports around 1000 cattle a week from south of the Border, representing 10% of the normal weekly kill, to maintain the viability of abattoirs.
Creating a barrier at the border would prevent these cattle coming into Scotland and create “huge disadvantages” for beef farmers with farms near the Border. The need for constant monitoring of all livestock movements would involve considerable cost and inconvenience.

In addition, products from beef shipped to England for further processing would not be permitted back into Scotland for retail sale.

“Shutting the country off may not be the best option and a proper and thorough debate must take place with Government officials and industry stakeholders over the next few days to find the best solution,” said Hamish McBean, Vice Chairman of NBA Scotland. “Decisions cannot be made until there is clear evidence gathered from the epidemiology and risk assessment reports, all the animal tracings and the outcome of the gene sequencing technology being used.”

NBA Scotland supports the concept of high and low risk areas and a buffer area with restricted livestock movements between areas.

The classification of areas concept is already built into regulations covering the control of Blue Tongue disease.

“Areas would need to be large enough to encourage and support normal trade routes and could apply across country borders,” said Hamish. “A low risk zone, for example, could by Scotland and northern/central England and Wales. A high risk zone of 150km could be placed around the Surrey area where the virus is circulating with the remaining area of the country – between the low and high risk zones – being classified as a buffer area.

Hamish McBean stressed that the most important aim was the eradication of the disease and NBA Scotland was urging farmers to be far more vigilant with bio security measures, especially when taking cattle to slaughter, attending approved sales on the islands or delivering stock to collection centres.

“There are reports of farmers failing to follow recommendations to clean and disinfect vehicles which could result in more restrictions being applied or further delays in the relaxation of restrictions,” he warned.

“The whole industry is under the European microscope with Food and Vet Officials here in the UK to check the controls which have been put in place. Any breach of bio security will result in a far greater delay in returning to normal trading.”

And he added: “Everyone in the industry is extremely frustrated by the current crisis and its implications for their businesses and financial well-being. But we must not let ourselves down by being complacent about FMD restrictions.”

Mr Mathers welcomed the efforts being made by the Scottish Government and Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, to relieve the growing pressure on livestock farms by issuing general licences to help farmers move livestock in this critical period.

link NFUS Foot and Mouth Disease Update
link Defra Dashes Hopes of Grants for NVZ Slurry Stores
link Undercover Mum Exposes Zebu Beef

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