Virus must not dent customer confidence

FARMING experts are determined that the discovery of bluetongue in Suffolk should not dent customer confidence.The discovery could not have come at a worse time for farmers who are still reeling from the outbreak of foot-and-mouth.

FARMING experts are determined that the discovery of bluetongue in Suffolk should not dent customer confidence.

The discovery could not have come at a worse time for farmers who are still reeling from the outbreak of foot-and-mouth.

Nicola Currie, regional director for the Country Land and Business Association, said: “What we must not let this do is knock confidence among the public at a time when they are being asked to show solidarity to British farmers by eating British meat.

“The arrival of bluetongue has been on the cards following its movement across Europe and the milder weather we're experiencing in Britain.

“The movement restrictions and daily monitoring by all farmers and rural businesses should help the situation, but a midge-borne virus is difficult to contain and it is worrying that it is close to the A14.

“The grazing livestock industry is already under serious strain in this region and this outbreak will only add to the pressures.”

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John Collen, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the NFU, said: “Its obviously not good news coming so soon after foot-and-mouth. There have been outbreaks of bluetongue throughout Europe over the last few years but being an island we were ever hopeful that we would remain free - however clearly that hasn't been the case.

“At the moment, because it's never been over here before, I'm not really sure how it will affect the industry but obviously it's a concern.”

Meanwhile MPs have also said they will do all they can to ensure the government acts quickly and effectively to minimise any potential risk.

Richard Howitt, MEP for the eastern region, said: “I have made it quite clear that farmers in Suffolk have suffered very badly from foot-and-mouth and we don't want another body blow to the industry.

“I will also help in any way I can by linking up with my European colleagues with the aim of understanding this disease. I want us to learn lessons from how it has been managed on the continent so that we don't repeat their mistakes.”

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