[Sinn Fein]

5th February 2003

Brucellosis and TB level continue to rise

Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh has express anger at the increase of Brucellosis and TB reactors identified in herds here and the deterioration in meeting targets for removal and slaughter.

Mr McHugh said:

``In December we were missing the 15 day target for removing Brucellosis and TB reactors by 4 days for TB and 2 days for Brucellosis. The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture show that the average for removing reactors now stands at 32 days for TB and 21 days for Brucellosis. It is also disappointing that the Chief Veterinary Officer expresses `satisfaction' at this slippage in meeting the 15-day target identified in December.

``There is a continuing rise in the numbers of Brucellosis and TB reactors in every DVO across the north of Ireland. The number of Brucellosis reactors has jumped by over 27% across the north since December, with a massive jump of over 50% in the Newry DVO. Similarly there has been a 12% increase in the number of TB reactors.

``These latest figures confirm what many farmers are experiencing, namely that there is a problem with the removal of TB and Brucellosis reactors - a delay resulting from insufficient valuers and slaughter capacity. A problem that appears to be deteriorating

``In the last three months there have been over 4350 TB reactors (up from 3,862 in December) and over 200 Brucellosis reactors (up from 161 in December) identified with particularly high levels in Fermanagh, Antrim, Tyrone and Armagh giving rise to concern that not enough is being done.

``This compares very badly with the South where they have practically eradicated Brucellosis and reactors are removed within 4 to 5 working days. In Monaghan and Louth the level is practically nil. This is hitting farmers here who are developing pedigree herds hardest, particularly because of the cap on compensation where there is a high level of TB and Brucellosis incidence.

``For many Border farmers the link between increasing TB and Brucellosis levels and increased British Army activity is no co-incidence. I have pressed the previous Agriculture Minister to ensure that the British Army adhered to movement guidelines when moving through farms but the situation seems to deteriorated further.''

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