Bríd Rodgers, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development chaired a series of meetings yesterday with key organisations associated with Northern Ireland's agri-food industry to address some of the problems arising from the on-going Foot and Mouth restrictions.

Discussions centred on potential pressure points on the industry as the operational task of containing the disease continues. Included in this morning's round of talks were the Banks, Retailers and Meat Plants, the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association, and the NI Auctioneers Association.

Commenting following the meetings Bríd Rodgers said:-

"I appreciate and understand the pressures being experienced by the industry at the moment and have no doubt that these will increase as we strive to tackle the key objective of protecting our livestock from the spread of the disease. I am grateful for the sympathetic assurances given by representatives from the main banking organisations regarding the current financial pressures on farmers and also the very positive reaction from the other organisations involved in today's talks.

"Protecting the industry's infrastructure is of optimum importance to ensure that we can react quickly to improved market conditions when we are given the all clear and the disease is eradicated."