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Cardiff summit Sunday, 14 June, 1998, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Farmers press EU leaders over beef ban
Farmers say they need help after two years of a ban on beef exports
Around 4,000 farmers and countryside campaigners have gathered in Cardiff on the eve of the summit of European leaders.

They are pressing for an early end to the ban on British beef exports and for more support for rural areas hit by unemployment in the agriculture industry.

After gathering at Cardiff Arms Park for a mass rally, the protesters marched to Cardiff City Hall where UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and EU leaders hold two days of top-level talks.

George Lyon, Scottish NFU president, said: "British beef should now be back on the plates of Europe where it belongs. Enough is enough."

'Plight of farmers'

A delegation is also going to the Welsh Office to meet Secretary of State Ron Davies to highlight fears that some 8,000 jobs in rural Wales are under threat because of the dire state of the industry.

Hugh Richards, chairman of the National Farmers' Union in Wales, said despite moves by the European Commission on Wednesday to lift the beef ban, farmers still felt they needed to protest.

"It gives us an opportunity once again to highlight the plight of farmers and country folk of the problems we have had.

"What's happened this week is only a small step towards lifting the ban."

'We desperately need help'

As well as farmers, members of the Womens' Institute, livestock auctioneers, vets and agricultural sales workers were represented to demonstrate the depth of the crisis.

Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llywd (Merionydd Nant Conwy) warned that 9m a month less was going into the economy of west Wales because of the severe recession in farming and its knock-on effect on the rural community.

He said: "We desperately need help. Otherwise communities will become little more than ghost towns. European leaders must take note of the situation when they meet this week."

Prominent Labour and Conservative speakers critical of the EU are also holding a two-day congress in Cardiff to coincide with the summit.

Former Tory Chairman Lord Tebbit and ex-Conservative Chancellor Norman Lamont will be among those attending the event organised by the Anti-Maastricht Alliance.

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Hugh Richards: It's only a small step towards lifting the beef ban
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BBC Wales correspondent Wyre Davis: Farmers are determined to keep up the pressure
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10 Jun 98 | UK
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