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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
NI foot-and-mouth restrictions lifted
The disease is in the NI sheep flock
Animal movement is to resume on farms in Counties Antrim and Tyrone
Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers has announced the lifting of foot-and-mouth surveillance zones in the province.

The zones have been in place following outbreaks of the disease in Counties Tyrone and Antrim in April.

The news that the zones are to be lifted gives a massive boost to farmers suffering under the 10km areas blocking livestock movement.

Animals in the Ardboe and Cushendall areas have not been allowed onto new pastures since the outbreaks in April while livestock examinations were completed.

My veterinary advice is that it is now appropriate to stand down the surveillance zones

Brid Rodgers

"Following extensive blood testing of all the sheep in both the surveillance zones, my veterinary advice is that it is now appropriate to stand down the surveillance zones we had to establish in April," said the minister.

"That means that farmers in those areas will now be subject to exactly the same rules in relation to the movement of livestock as everyone else, and which I announced on 18 May."

The minister said that her department was now in a position to apply for regional status for Northern Ireland.

Regional status permitting exports to Europe was withdrawn after the second of Northern Ireland's four foot-and-mouth cases was detected last month.

"The next milestone will be the question of regional status for Northern Ireland which will allow us to resume export of the relevant products," she said.

"I hope to be able to make an announcement on that after it has been discussed at next week's European Union Standing Veterinary Committee Meeting.

A control zone has been placed around the farm
Animal movement is to resume on farms in Counties Antrim and Tyrone

The minister added: "I am grateful to all those whose co-operation allowed us to deal with those outbreaks so speedily and effectively and to take this further step towards normality".

However, she urged caution as to further incidences of foot-and-mouth in Northern Ireland.

"Foot-and-mouth disease has been notable for its ability to flare up again just when people think they have it beaten.

"If we are to avoid any further setbacks in Northern Ireland, it is absolutely vital that farmers observe all the current movement controls and continue to take all the precautions against the disease.

"Only by doing that will we be sure that we have the disease beaten."

The Ulster Farmers Union has welcomed the removal of the foot-and-mouth surveillance zones.

UFU President Douglas Rowe said farmers in the area would be relieved that no further traces of foot and mouth disease have been found.

He said they could now trade the rest of the Northern Ireland agriculture industry.

Murlough Bay Nature Reserve in County Antrim has re-opened on Friday following weeks of closure due to the foot-and-mouth threat on a nearby farm.

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See also:

31 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Multi-million pound boost to NI farming
22 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Export restrictions may be lifted
14 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Renewed hope for NI farm exports
10 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Disease hits NI business confidence
19 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Surprise at NI livestock compensation
19 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Penalties outlined for moving animals
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