Farmers draw up prices battle plan

FARMERS are threatening to refuse to send their animals to slaughter if they don’t receive a fair price for their stock.

FARMERS are threatening to refuse to send their animals to slaughter if they don’t receive a fair price for their stock.

At an emergency meeting in Wooler, Northumberland, this week, attended by more than 100 farmers, it was decided that farmers should fight back if livestock prices plummet like they did during the last foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001.

At that time, prices for lambs dropped from 237p per kg deadweight to just 141p, and from 148p per kg liveweight to just 66p, although prices in the shops did not drop accordingly.

It was a similar situation for cattle, with prices dropping 15p-25p per kg deadweight, which equated to a loss of £48-£80 an animal. Although processors and retailers have said that they will not take advantage of the situation, North-East farmers are considering setting a base figure below which they will refuse to sell their stock.

And they hope that their stance will be adopted nationwide. If prices do start to nosedive, then another emergency meeting will be held in the region, where a price may be set.

NFU livestock board vice-chairman Malcolm Corbett, from Rochester, said: “The farmers were in no mood to see the value of their lambs plummet this autumn and are prepared to work with other farmers to do their best to resist unnecessary price predation, and also put a bottom in the market, should circumstances make this necessary.

“However, it was also stressed that farmers need to study the market place and not flood it with cattle and sheep so that a big price drop becomes inevitable. Farmers should discuss their selling requirements with their agents to help maintain supply and demand.”

Tenant Farmers Association chairman Reg Haydon said: “I see no reason why the processors and retailers should pay any less for livestock now than what they were paying a week ago before the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease occurred. The economics of livestock production are already very marginal for the farmer and any downward pressure on prices will only add to the misery and financial burden facing the industry as a result of the FMD outbreak.

“I am, therefore, calling on the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and WM Morrison not to think about attempting to cash in on the current crisis.

“Prices are holding at the moment but the market is very fragile. Farmers deserve a sustainable return for what they do and we want to ensure that as many as possible survive this current crisis as this is essential to maintaining our nation’s food security.”

Dr Charles Trotman, the Country Land and Business Association’s rural economy adviser, said: “I hope that the chief executives who control the big supermarkets will instruct their meat buyers to recognise the need for long-term partnerships and avoid the temptation to make a quick profit at the expense of those who have had to shoulder the burden of this disease.”

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Culled animals were not infected

A FARMER whose livestock were slaughtered as a precaution following foot-and-mouth outbreaks on neighbouring land spoke of his frustration yesterday on hearing his animals were not infected.

Defra said tests on the carcasses of goats, sheep, cattle and pigs belonging to John Emerson showed they were healthy.

Mr Emerson, speaking from Hunts Hill Farm in Normandy, Surrey, said: “We are upset. It’s the shock of it; we’re in a sort of vacuum really.

“The bigger picture is that by eradicating the disease from this small area, it will be good for the country and agriculture as a whole – looking at it like that makes it easier to accept.”

Mr Emerson said his farm is flanked by fields used by John Gunner, whose cattle tested positive, and by others used by Roger Pride, whose herd were the first infected.

“When we first heard the herds next door to ours were infected, we thought it was inevitable ours would get it, too,” he said. “But knowing now that my animals were never infected makes it worse.”

Mr Emerson said he had been told he would be receiving the market value for culled animals – not close to the retail value of the meat.

He said he had £10,000 worth of meat sitting ready to be sold which had now been condemned – a loss he said he would not be compensated for.

“I’ve got ducks and chickens laying eggs and I’m told I can’t sell them either,” he said. “It’s this sort of thing that rubs salt in the wounds.”

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New scare as cattle on third farm are tested

THE Prime Minister yesterday moved to reassure the country over the foot-and-mouth outbreak as tests were carried out on a possible new case outside the original protection zone.

Gordon Brown declared: “Britain is open for business” and said everything was being done to get the country back to normal outside the restricted zones.

Meanwhile, the farmer at the centre of the new scare said he was sure his livestock did not have the disease

Chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds said tests were under way on the animals and the results would give guidance on what to do next.

She also said there were no plans to vaccinate at this stage of the outbreak, but it remained an
option.

Mr Brown praised the rural community for its “patience and forbearance” and also announced new measures to firm up the rural economy, including extra compensation for farmers affected by the disease.

A 3km temporary control zone has been set up around the possible new case near Dorking in Surrey, outside the existing surveillance area, after an “inconclusive assessment” of symptoms in cattle, Defra said.

Farmer Laurence Matthews said he was “absolutely sure” the disease was not on his farm.

He said animals showed signs of ulcers but there were no lesions.

Swabs and blood tests on his calves were being carried out to confirm it was not foot and mouth, he said.

“We are waiting for those results and hopefully it will show it was not foot and mouth,” he added.

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