Foot-and-mouth epidemic hurting UK plcs

Listed companies currently suffering include sausage-maker Devro, which reported a fall in profits, leather-maker Pittards with a gloomy trading forecast, and veterinary products supplier Genus, which has seen its shares fall more than 17% since the crisis began in mid-February.

And even fast food giant McDonald’s said the outbreak could threaten its UK sales, the FT reported today.

However, the crisis has benefited some companies, with Shanks, a waste management company, expecting a call soon to dispose of animal meat and bone meal. Supermarket giant J Sainsbury has also said trading figures are up in ‘Christmas-like sales’, according to the FT.

A Foot-and-Mouth Task Force, chaired by environment minister Michael Meacher, is due to continue its meetings today to assess who is being affected by the growing crisis, and what possible measures could be taken to ease the financial burden on business.

A number of options are being considered including a possible tax ‘holiday’ for rural businesses, suspension of PAYE, relief from business rates and an appeal to banks to hold back on loan repayment demands.

The task force, which is due to report to the prime minister tomorrow, will also look at ways of restoring confidence in the tourist industry following reports it is suffering losses of Pounds 100m a week due to the crisis. With the normally lucrative Easter holiday period only a few weeks away, action is needed to prevent an economic catastrophe for small-hotel owners and retailers.

A report by the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food said there were 219 confirmed cases of the disease in the UK. 146,226 animals have so far been slaughtered, with another 58,327 awaiting a similar fate.


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