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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 17:41 GMT
Cattle markets to re-open
Cattle in pens
Restrictions will ease from the middle of February
Cattle markets in England are to re-start from February 2002.

The government has also indicated that sheep and pig farmers could begin moving their livestock to slaughter markets from the same date.

The easing of restrictions is conditional upon the continued success of measures to fight foot-and-mouth disease.

Agricultural shows, which do not include sheep, should also be able to re-start.

Farmers will be nothing short of delighted to see at least the start of the re-opening of livestock markets

Ben Gill National Farmers Union

A final date for the lifting of restrictions will not be decided until January, according to Lord Whitty, minister for Food and Farming.

Only those markets which can ensure strict biosecurity will be allowed to operate.

And on the day of sale all animals of different species will have to be kept apart.

Any animals that remain unsold will have to be taken back to the farms they came from and will not be allowed to be moved again for a further 20 days.

Improved situation

Other conditions include disinfecting vehicles used for transportation and facilities to clean all footwear.

Announcing the easing of restrictions, Lord Whitty said: "We have not had a case of foot-and-mouth disease since the end of September and our programme of testing has enabled us to reduce the risk status of all the counties affected.

"If all continues to go well I am aiming to introduce new arrangements from mid-February which reflect the improved situation but recognise the need to maintain precautions against the recurrence of the disease."

Although the announcement applies to England, the National Assembly of Wales is expected to support similar measures.

Reasonable conditions

David Brown, of the Livestock Auctioneers Association of England and Wales, said the resumption of sales was "excellent news".

But he criticised the 20-day standstill rule which means animals arriving on a farm prevent any others being moved off that land for another 20 days.

"We think that in the main the conditions are reasonable, with the exception of the 20-day movement which is unworkable.

"One of the big attractions of cattle markets are that if you don't like the price offered for your animal you can take it home.

Receding threat

"But you do that under these conditions and you can't move any animals on your farm for another 20 days."

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) said the organisation was fully behind the new measures, calling it a "massive step forward".

"Farmers will be nothing short of delighted to see at least the start of the re-opening of livestock markets."

Mr Gill said he hoped to see further relaxations next year as the threat of foot and mouth receded but the issue of the 20-day movement standstill would still have to be resolved.

See also:

20 Aug 01 | UK
Cattle back on sale
14 Aug 01 | Scotland
Livestock sales resume in Scotland
27 Apr 01 | Scotland
Cattle sold on the web
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