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Sheep sector expresses serious concerns over P&O news

After P&O Ferries announced it is making serious operational changes, the National Sheep Association has shared concerns over the impact on movement of breeding sheep and goods between GB and Northern Ireland.

The ferry company is responsible for most overseas movement of animals and goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and the biggest shipper of breeding sheep from Great Britain to Europe.

It announced yesterday (17th March) that there will be no future for the business without significant changes to the way in which it operates.

It is not yet clear how these changes will be implemented, but NSA fears this could cause serious disruption in the immediate term, and further delay solutions to the absence of any live breeding animal trade across the English Channel.

P&O has faced a growing backlash since it sacked 800 staff without notice yesterday, planning to replace them with cheaper agency staff, and many of its services are not running over the next few days.

The company has been the mainstay of shipping live breeding sheep between Britain and Europe, and GB and Northern Ireland.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker comments: “Brexit brought new controls for moving live animals into Europe and the fact there is no Border Control Post (BCP) with live animal facilities on the other side of the channel means British breeders have not been able to sustain what was a long standing and important trade for valuable UK livestock genetics. Negotiations are ongoing about establishing such a facility but today’s news from P&O is likely to create further uncertainty and delays.

“The Northern Ireland protocols have allowed the continued movement of animals between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but have imposed serious extra controls resulting in many sheep farmers in Northern Ireland feeling ‘cast adrift’. It is not clear from the P&O statement what might happen immediately but this disruption will do nothing to allow farmers in Northern Ireland to integrate with the wider UK industry.”

Mr Stocker added: “We await further details and hope that solutions can be found to prevent any immediate or short term disruption, and to provide confidence for plans for a live animal BCP to progress in time for this years breeding sales this summer.”

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