Business: View from the Chair - Economic Impact of the Foot and Mouth Crisis

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), April 24, 2001 | Go to article overview

Business: View from the Chair - Economic Impact of the Foot and Mouth Crisis


Byline: Joan Harbison

THERE are welcome signs that the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Great Britain is slowly coming under control, although here in Northern Ireland - because of the greater significance of the agriculture sector - we still have cause to be nervous about what may be out there.

The extent to which the disease will impede growth is difficult to forecast. The IoD surveyed UK members in the week beginning April 9, with 35 per cent responding that their businesses had been affected by the outbreak.

Crudely grossing up the estimates for losses for the whole economy gives a total loss so far of 2 per cent of GDP rising to 4 per cent if the outbreak were to continue to the end of July. This data should be viewed cautiously because it was a self-selecting sample.

Independent estimates suggest the economic impact could be less than a quarter of the crude estimates.

Nevertheless, the short term impact locally is real and painful in the number of farm animals slaughtered and export opportunities denied.

Beyond that are the myriad of small businesses from farm suppliers to B&Bs who are counting the cost.

Compensation has, quite rightly, come quickly for the farmers who have lost herds. For other companies affected, help is on the way - a rates deferral scheme is operating, the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme has been amended and extended and the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister is considering what compensation schemes are required and how they might be administered.

The marketing-based tourism recovery plan, to which the Minister allocated pounds 1m, is crucial to future visitor numbers. Information for those affected is available on www. …

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