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FMD: Changes to expect this week

by 5m Editor
8 October 2007, at 11:14am

UK - The surprise news this week of the pending resumption of exports of meat from animals in a limited area of Great Britain has to be good news even though closer inspection of the conditions may greatly limit the benefit to the English pig industry, says NPA's Ian Campbell.

Privately, Defra have confirmed that the offer from Scofcah, the body that can authorise such a move, took them by surprise as well and did not come with options to negotiate the conditions.

It is hoped that when Scofcah meet on 17th October further progress will have been made in eradicating the virus thus permitting the ‘free’ zone to be extended and conditions applied that will be appropriate to the level of risk.

It should be no surprise to producers that after the mistaken declaration of freedom after the first two cases, European Union members are likely to be rather more cautious in the timing of acceptance from GB authorities that all is under control.

I mention this because it is important when attempting to understand why the ruminant sector appears to be enjoying greater relaxation of controls than our own; the simple answer is that despite not a single pig having been infected in this outbreak, the European Union regards pigs as being the biggest risk from aerosol spread and as such will expect our authorities to keep a tighter rein there if they are to approve a rapid expansion of the eligible area to export from.

No one will need me telling them just how critical it is for farm prices to get the export market rolling again let alone releasing that flood of culled sows that are causing such a problem back on farm.

But, it does look as though we will get some relaxation particularly in the low risk zone from Tuesday with the new general licences permitting all direct farm to farm movement to take place without veterinary inspection.

Easing
There should be some easing of the rules on two drop offs for breeding companies and the ability of farms to deliver to two abattoirs using the same lorry.

Multi pickups are a bit more of a struggle and although I think units functioning within PRIMO approved units will be able to pick up from two farms, it remains to be seen if we can achieve any extension so that producers with more than one finishing unit in the same pyramid can do the same.

I am expecting all this to be finally agreed on Monday (today) with the appropriate licences available on the Defra website by the end of the day.

The position in the higher risk areas remains a real problem for producers with finishing units outside the zone; it may be of some help that the distance limit within the zone has been removed although I doubt that solves the main problems. My hope is that by next week a further shrinking in the higher risk zone will have occurred thus releasing some critical moves.

What may happen from now is that we can expect changes in zones and licences to be reviewed at the end of each week with action finally agreed on the Monday of the following week.

The past week has been extremely stressful on everyone with mistakes in the drafting of licences causing movements to be disallowed that should not have been – I apologise for some that I should have been sharper to pick up.

Hopefully the drafting of the new General Licences is spot on and the communication from Page St to producers via regional Animal Health offices and Trading Standards will be improved.

5m Editor