August 5, 2008
Success of Sales is Riding on Bluetongue Vaccine Supplies
By Sally Williams
SUFFICIENT amounts of bluetongue vaccine need to be made available across Wales in time for the September sales, a farmers' union warned last night.
President of NFU Cymru, Dai Davies said livestock traditionally moved from west to east during the peak time for pedigree cattle and lamb trading and he hoped that the September sales would be "viable".
He pointed out that the problems posed by bluetongue, a disease spread by midges, cut livestock entries by up to 40% at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd and entries were also down at Brecon Show on Saturday.
At Brecon, Mr Davies called on the whole supply chain to "work closely" in the coming weeks to help deliver "sustainable beef and lamb prices".
He said: "Brecon Show was held in an area just a few metres from the border between an area that is clear of bluetongue and the Welsh bluetongue protection zone.
"Bluetongue has hindered agriculture this summer as far as shows are concerned and I hope sufficient vaccines will be ready in time for the September sales," he stressed.
Mr Davies said there are a million fewer sheep across the UK than there were 10 years ago and the last thing the nation's food infrastructure needs is farmers cutting back further on production.
"There seems to be a real lack of understanding about how food is produced and we need to make sure that we have enough red meat and food for our own population," he added.
"There are other economies emerging that will be wanting their share of food and as populations grow, we could find ourselves in a difficult position in future."
His call came in the county of Powys, which is predominantly a beef and sheep farming area, after falls in farm gate prices for both beef and lamb in recent days.
Mr Davies added: "Producer confidence is very fragile in the red meat sector at present.
"Escalating input costs are putting enormous pressure on red meat production and cuts in producer prices are really hitting the confidence of livestock farmers.
"We know that we have a product in demand with our consumers.
Over the course of the past 12 months, household purchases of beef have risen by over 5% and purchases of lamb by 3% in expenditure terms. With supply unchanged, recent farm gate price decreases cannot be justified taking into account the recent and long term prospects for red meat production and consumption.
"I hope that producers, processors and retailers can work closely in the coming weeks to match supply with demand and hel pus to manage what I believe to be a short term issue which needs to be overcome if we are to have a sustainable Welsh livestock sector in the long term.
"As producers, we need to carefully consider how we market our stock and the timing of sales could be crucial.
"We need to ensure that our purchasers help us to do this by clearly providing the industry with the right signals to invest with confidence in a future in red meat production."
On July 25, Defra said there were 136 confirmed premises across England and Wales affected by bluetongue.
Farmers in the current protection zone in South-East Wales have been urged to take advantage of the opportunity to vaccinate and those in the current free zone have been told to contact their vet to place an order for the vaccine.
Some 7.5m doses of vaccine have been ordered and as more vaccine becomes available the protection zone will be rolled out until all Wales will be covered.
Meanwhile farmers have been urged to book now or run the risk of losing Older Cattle Disposal Scheme (OCDS) compensation.
Ed Rees, NFU Cymru Livestock board chairman, said at Brecon Show: "We have heard recently that the scheme is fully booked for October, November and December, unless there are cancellations, so there is only room in August and September."
The OCDS was introduced in 1996 to compensate farmers for animals which are prevented from entering the food chain under BSE controls.
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