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Gildernew discusses Bluetongue with Farming Unionis

8 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA today met with representatives from the Ulster Farmers' Union and Irish Farmers' Association.

The delegations consisted of Kenneth Sharkey, Cyril Millar and Ian Stevenson from the UFU and were accompanied by Derek Dean and Tomas Bourke from IFA.

During the meeting the minister urged the UFU and IFA to again highlight to their members the threat to the industry of importing bluetongue infected animals.

The Minister said: "

While I am pleased that the European Commission is strengthening movement controls from bluetongue zones, no-one can afford to be complacent. This disease could have a very serious economic impact on our industry and I continue to urge farmers and the entire farming industry to act responsibly. Do not import susceptible animals that may have been exposed to this disease."

In response to calls from the IFA and UFU to ban imports of animals that had been resident in Bluetongue zones since August 2006 the minister said:

"Proportionate and considered measures need to be applied consistent with European law and emerging science. That is why I imposed the suspension of certain imports until the new legislation comes into effect."

The minister also added:

"Any inappropriate action would risk the good relations we share with the Commission and other Member States. Remember we benefited from those relationships by being allowed to continue to trade internationally when Britain had Foot and Mouth Disease and when action was needed to tighten the Bluetongue controls."

The suspension of imports of cattle and sheep of breeding age, which came into effect on 1 March, will remain in place until the strengthened European controls come into force.

Notes to editors

Council Directive 1266/2007EC lays down the specific measures for control of Bluetongue. This is transposed in legislation in the Bluetongue (NI) Order 2008.

Following the case of bluetongue in North Antrim in February, the European Commission agreed to strengthen movement controls in certain cases. The amendment was agreed at the Standing Committee and Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) meeting on 4/5 March and will come into effect three days after it is published.

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