Total cost of epidemic put at (pounds) 2.7bn

November 28, 2001 The Herald (Glasgow) by Chris Starrs
THE total cost of the foot-and-mouth epidemic to government, including support for business, will be (pounds) 2.7bn, the chancellor announced, but farmers said they would still be out of pocket.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, said there was little in the speech that offered any specific help to his members, and that the cost of foot-and-mouth was at least (pounds) 1bn above the compensation paid out to farmers.

"We regret as much as anyone that this sum of money has had to paid," said Mr Gill. "But despite this large public bill, farmers themselves have made disastrous losses as a result of foot-and-mouth. "Their compensation has only covered the loss of their livestock, not the immense financial burden caused by the lack of markets, extra costs, movement restrictions, and consequential losses like the inability to produce milk or meat."

Mr Gill added: "It must be remembered that the root cause of the problem was a lack of resources to keep the disease out by preventing illegal imports of food, and also inadequate investment in animal disease research.

"If the proper contingency plans had been in place at the outset, the bill to the public and the pain and cost to farmers and the rural economy would have been considerably lower."

The UK Rural Business

Campaign, a group representing industries hit by foot-and-mouth, is calling for (pounds) 5.1bn compensation to help those affected by the epidemic.

Tom Griffiths-Jones, a spokesman for the campaign, dismissed Gordon Brown's announcement.

"I think his figure of (pounds) 2.7bn is being optimistic. He is ignoring the loss of profits for many of those worst hit," said Mr Griffiths-Jones.

Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency,

welcomed the measures to help rural businesses recover from foot-and-mouth, which he said would benefit many firms.

However, he said moves to abolish stamp duty in selected areas for houses under (pounds) 150,000 would not help the three million people in poverty in the countryside.

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