Filed Sept. 19, 2001

Something of a milestone this week, the number of affected farms logged since the outbreak (200 days ago) has now exceeded 2,000.

New cases are now averaging two/day in the two remaining ‘hot spots’. This does not include the 6,000 odd farms within the ring-fence zones, which also had their stock slaughtered as a precaution (contiguous culling).

The forecast we made just 14 days into the outbreak – estimating it would cost Britain £9 billion (US$13 billion) – looks to be chillingly accurate. Government sources announced this week that FMD has cost our farmers about £4 billion (US$5.7 billion) and that it has cost tourism, allied industries and the countryside ‘somewhat more’. Some of us think the ‘somewhat more’ is optimistic as it is difficult to get figures.

Stop the presses. Figures today (September 19) suggest we have only had one new case confirmed in the last five days in the last remaining hot spot. Could we dare hope it is at last over?

The Pig Situation

Our pig industry has got off lightly. So far, the estimated loss put out by the National Pig Association (NPA) is £70 million (US$100 million). However, this figure needs to be viewed in context to the numbers of pig farmers now left in Britain after a series of lean years, which now numbers about 3,000.

Those 3,000 have made nothing like $100 million in profit this year – more like a tenth of it, if that. Eventually, those farms directly affected will get compensation.

The real damage, however, has been suffered by those unaffected pig producers who have been prevented from selling their stock or hampered by law from moving their stock to other farms (nurseries or grow-out units) due to proximity movement restrictions.

As a result of movement restrictions, artificial insemination has really blossomed, as many sows cannot be brought in to boars if the breeding unit is separate. AI is the only option left. Our AI studs are coping with the 30% increased demand.

Causes for Concern

The Government is still trying to dodge a full and impartial public enquiry as to the cause of the outbreak (exotic meat imports) and its subsequent handling of the affair. They are holding three ‘official’ enquiries, but all of them are really being conducted by those responsible. Everyone is cynical of the outcome, of course. As a result there are no less than five private enquiries being set up, which seems silly.

Now the European Commission is going to hold an enquiry too. While this looks to be a good thing, there could be no obligation that those responsible for past actions must appear to give evidence, under oath, in a court of law. The British authorities not being honest enough to face the scrutiny of a full public enquiry cause this most unsatisfactory situation.