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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Industry seeks meat export move
Beef being prepared at the Scotbeef plant in Bridge of Allan
Meat exports have been banned for three months
Scotland's farming industry is pressing to be allowed to resume meat exports before the rest of the UK if foot-and-mouth can be contained.

A three-month export ban has been imposed across the UK following the discovery on a farm in Surrey.

The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers said it might be possible to argue for some "regionalisation".

SAMW executive manager Alistair Donaldson said its main priority was to get businesses operating again.

He told BBC Scotland that disease control was paramount.

"We need to keep our fingers crossed that we are going to make good progress that will minimise the impact from here on," he said.

Our number one priority is to get companies operating again
Alistair Donaldson

"As of this morning, none of our members' businesses are able to operate and this has serious consequences."

The restrictions put in place after the foot-and-mouth discovery include a UK-wide ban on the movement of livestock.

Mr Donaldson said the association had held discussions with the Scottish Executive's rural affairs department about finding the right mechanism to open up movement to slaughter.

He was hopeful that there could be some progress this week on such a move, which would "keep some momentum in the whole food chain".

"We are a long way from the disease. If it is contained in that area then of course we need to start the debate as to how quickly we can open things up and return to normality as soon as possible," he said.

Significant distance

He said it was "quite feasible" to resume exports from Scotland before the rest of the UK.

"Export business for beef and lamb is important to Scotland and if we are a significant distance from the outbreak then a case can be made for some aspect of regionalisation," added Mr Donaldson.

"We need to explore that, but our number one priority is to get companies operating again."

Alex Salmond at Turriff Show on Sunday
Alex Salmond said farmers needed the maximum support

The National Farmers Union in Scotland said farmers were already suffering from the restrictions.

But president Jim McLaren said he was hopeful the outbreak in Surrey could be contained and prevented fromspreading further north.

He added: "The industry is shut down at the moment and for every day it stays that way, the cost goes up by millions.

"This is early days in a rapidly moving situation but we need to see, as quickly as possible, animals going direct from farms into the food chain under licence.

"However, obviously this can only happen if the disease control experts are happy to let it."

Mr McLaren praised the Scottish Executive's response to the outbreak.

He said: "Their action, for example to lift the ban on burying animals on farms in light of the suspension of pick-up services, is a good example of the cabinet secretary and his officials working extremely quickly and in close harmony with industry."

First Minister Alex Salmond visited the Turriff Show on Sunday, where he voiced his support for the country's farmers.

"Hopefully if this virus has been contained we can get agriculture back to normal," he said.

"We need to get Scottish livestock moving again. Everybody understands that we must proceed on a precautionary basis," said Mr Salmond.

The Scottish government has set up a helpline for farmers on 0845 1553366.

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