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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Disease 'threatens rural life'
foot-and-mouth warning
The disease has had a profound impact on rural Britain
By environment correspondent Tim Hirsch

A comprehensive assessment of the impact of foot-and-mouth disease suggests it could further threaten the rural way of life in Britain, already under intense pressure before the epidemic struck.

The Countryside Agency is publishing a report on Wednesday showing how the disease has had a profound impact on rural Britain far beyond the farming industry and the areas immediately affected by the outbreak.

The overall cost to the economy this year is expected to be up to 4bn, with losses to the tourism industry accounting for the lion's share.

FMD report's key points
Has cost to national economy up to 4.1bn for 2001
Estimated cost of FMD compensation to farmers more than 1,107m
Economic impact greater for tourism than agriculture
Tourism industry has lost up to 3bn overall
Nationally about 25% of firms adversely affected
But the report says that country areas have suffered disproportionately, adding to the effects of the worst agricultural depression since the 1930s.

A wide range of rural businesses from agricultural suppliers to pubs, garages and local shops have all suffered severe losses of income.

The agency's chairman, Ewen Cameron, who also acts as the government's rural advocate, says there will be more bankruptcies and fewer jobs as a result of the crisis, and that rural communities will suffer for years to come.

"In the areas hardest hit, such as Cumbria, Devon, parts of Herefordshire, North Yorkshire and the north east, it's a double blow.

"Agriculture was already in recession and many households depended on rural tourism and its suppliers for jobs and income," Mr Cameron said.

The report found the disease could add to many of the pressures already facing rural communities, speeding up the loss of local services and forcing many young people to move away from their villages to urban areas because of a lack of local jobs.

Agriculture was already in recession and many households depended on rural tourism and its suppliers for jobs and income

Ewen Cameron Countryside Agency Chairman
The Countryside Agency is calling for urgent government action to encourage more people to visit the countryside, more help to enable farmers to diversify into other businesses, and a speeding up of measures announced in last year's Rural White Paper to help improve local facilities for people living in the countryside.

The report acknowledges that it will be some time before the full impact of foot-and-mouth can be assessed - but it is clear that it has made the survival of many rural communities even more fragile.

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The overall cost of the outbreak could be as high as 4 billion"
Tim Palmer, NFU
"I do have great sympathy for all the people in the rural community"
Ewen Cameron, Countryside Agency
"The worst effect has been the lack of visitors to the countryside"
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