Ulster farmers welcome clearance to export live animals to Scotland
Ulster farmers last night correctwelcomed news that one of their most lucrative livestock markets is back in contention as movement restrictions across the Irish Sea were relaxed.
The news came as cattle culled on a second farm in Surrey tested positive for foot and mouth disease.
The farm, near Egham, where animals were slaughtered on Thursday on suspicion of infection, is next door to the first infected premises, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
Stormont's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (Dard) last night announced that livestock from Northern Ireland can be shipped to Scotland for slaughter as long as certain conditions are adhered to.
Shipments must be accompanied by a Dard Export Health Certificate, a General Import Licence and an Internal Movement Licence issued by the Scottish Government. The concession has been agreed between Dard and Scotland and applies to exports of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs for immediate slaughter only.
The department has issued a list of measures that must be taken to make sure returning vehicles are spotless. Any vehicle found to be unclean will be turned back by Dard Portal Inspectors.
The Ulster Farmers Union welcomed the news, saying: "The Scottish market is stronger than the Northern Ireland market at this moment, so it's an important outlet for our livestock. We're very pleased about the lifting of that restriction."
Farmers won't be shocked by confirmation of the second outbreak this week, he added.
"It's most probably directly linked to the outbreak which happened a few days ago. We hope that once again this can be contained within the geographical area.
"The hope of the industry is that it's just a sting in the tail of the original outbreak and doesn't signify a whole new emergence of the disease," he said.
Tom Elliott, vice chairman of the Stormont agriculture committee, said the relaxation of the rules on slaughter was to be expected after suspect sheep in Lanarkshire was cleared earlier in the week.
"Certainly there needs to be a very pro-active move from Defra to determine the source of the infection. We are not hearing any information out of Defra at the minute about that," he said.
The second cull of animals took place on Thursday on Stroude Farm, owned by Ernest Ward. Mr Ward's son, Steven Ward, confirmed that 800 pigs and 40 cattle were being culled at the farm. It came after a herd belonging to Robert Lawrence, who owns Hardwick Park Farm, was found to be infected with foot and mouth while on grazing land attached to nearby Milton Park Farm.
Scientists are still attempting to establish whether the disease has spread through animals, vehicle movements or environmental contamination.
Farming leaders said the new cases were a disaster for the industry as they emerged from meetings with Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday, amid concerns the industry is losing almost £10m a day under the restrictions.