Farming chief welcomes FMD move

A FARMERS' leader yesterday welcomed news that Essex has been removed from the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) risk area.But Simon Brice, chairman of the Essex NFU branch, said that bluetongue disease restrictions in parts of the county could remain in place for as long as two years.

By Roddy Ashworth

A FARMERS' leader yesterday welcomed news that Essex has been removed from the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) risk area.

But Simon Brice, chairman of the Essex NFU branch, said that bluetongue disease restrictions in parts of the county could remain in place for as long as two years.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that as of yesterday Essex would be classified as lying in the FMD Low Risk Area, meaning that livestock keepers are now able to move animals from farm to farm.

The decision followed a veterinary risk assessment which revealed no cause to suspect FMD in the county.

Mr Brice said: “The important thing with FMD is to control, contain and eradicate it and by Essex coming down to a low risk one would like to think it is on its way out.

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“However with bluetongue, which is a completely different disease, there are two zones - the control zone, which is about 20 kilometres around Ipswich, and the outer protection zone which is about 150 kilometres in a circle. That goes out to the other side of Chelmsford.

“Although restrictions for FMD have been relaxed, it does mean that those inside the outer protection zone and the control zone for bluetongue still have movement restrictions in place.

“And in the case of bluetongue, it looks like the restriction zones could be in place for two more years - it is not a five minute situation.”

Essex County Council welcomed the news that the county had been removed from the FMD risk area, but urged all local farmers and livestock owners to remain vigilant.

Roger Walters, executive member for Trading Standards said: “This should provide some relief for local farmers and livestock owners, who have been experiencing a very difficult time.

“It is important that our rural economy is kept buoyant, and hopefully this will go some way to helping us achieve this.

“Trading Standards officers are still in constant contact with our colleagues at Defra, and will be advising local animal owners of any future developments.”

N The Defra helpline number is 0845 933 5577. Trading Standards would also advise the animal owners to monitor www.defra.gov.uk for up to date information.