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Farron warns Defra that dropping price of bluetongue vaccine could be counterproductive

May 21, 2009 12:00 AM

Defra's decision to sell off its remaining bluetongue vaccine for half its original price could be counterproductive according to Liberal Democrat Shadow Defra Secretary Tim Farron MP.

Mr Farron estimates that around 60% of farmers in Cumbria have vaccinated their livestock and he is concerned that the price cut is unfair to those who have vaccinated and paid the full price. He is also worried that the price cut could lead to dangerous complacency about vaccinating livestock in the future.

Defra has 7.5 million doses of unsold bluetongue vaccine which is due to expire at various points from mid June to the end of August this year at a potential cost to the taxpayer of £3.3 million. As a result Defra has announced that it will sell off its remaining vaccine and this will be discounted by 50%.

With the forecast of a hot summer ahead, Mr Farron is encouraging livestock farmers to take advantage of the discounted vaccine, but has warned Defra that the price cut could lead some to assume that there will be similar concessions in following years. That could mean that people are encouraged to delay vaccination, which could be disastrous

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"With the increased temperatures of summer just around the corner, there is a very real danger that we will start to see the disease spread into areas further north and west where there is a far more limited uptake of the bluetongue vaccine

"With that in mind I'd urge all farmers to take advantage of Defra's price cut and protect their livestock against bluetongue while the opportunity exists and before the midge season peaks.

"The worry however, is that for new vaccines for other strains of bluetongue in future, farmers will decide to delay vaccinating their livestock on the assumption that Defra will again reduce the cost of the vaccine later. This could be disastrous if the disease were to get a foothold in the meantime

"It's important that farmers do not bet the health of their livestock on Defra repeating their incompetence."