UK declared free of FMD

News the UK is now officially free of foot-and-mouth disease has been greeted with delight by meat levy bodies - the British Pig Executive (BPEX) and the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

But both stress this is a beginning not an end and the hard work gets under way now, restoring lost markets outside the EU. A joint programme targeting 24 countries has been drawn up by BPEX, EBLEX and Defra.

The UK has now regained its FMD-free status from the all-important OIE (Office International des Epizooties) which is recognised by Third Countries - trade within the EU has already restarted.

Negotiations are then usually required with individual countries to agree to reinstate health certificates for trade in meat and livestock.

A huge programme of work to regain lost ground is ready to roll out. BPEX and EBLEX export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier said: "Third-country exports are as varied as meat, offal, hides, casings and genetics and their value is more than £70m per year.

"They are an important part of improving the sustainability of our domestic livestock sector."

BPEX chairman Stewart Houston said: "Exports are vital if we are to have a sustainable British pig industry and we will be working extremely hard, not only to regain lost markets but also to open new ones, such as China.

It is particularly important at the moment, as the industry is in crisis, having to cope with sky-high feed costs and static prices."

EBLEX chairman John Cross said: "This is welcome news for the beef and lamb sectors and provides our exporters with the opportunity to develop commercial relationships in countries outside the EU."