NFU President Ben Gill yesterday made a further impassioned plea to the Prime Minister to give farmers a glimmer of hope through the gloom of foot and mouth disease.

At yesterday's meeting, Mr Gill called on the Prime Minister to put forward a recovery package as soon as possible so that farmers can believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

He said that there must be a compensation package to make up for the consequential losses of farmers who have been left without any income because all their animals have been slaughtered or because they are in infected areas and cannot market their animals.

Mr Gill said: "It is impossible to put a precise figure on what the industry needs but it undoubtedly will run into many millions of pounds.

"Dark days are stretching ahead of farmers and many are at their wits end, not knowing how they are going to make ends meet.

"The Government needs to give them a clear sign that it understands the soul-devouring crisis that they are facing. A recovery package would at least give them the hope to carry on."

Farmers whose animals have gone over the over thirty month age limit prohibiting them from the human food chain, therefore reducing their value, should also be compensated, the NFU believes.

Among other measures, the NFU will also propose to Government the adjustment of the Sheep Annual Premium support payment to take into account the impact on the lamb price of foot and mouth, and an application for private storage aid for pigmeat.

But it is also vital that a recovery package looks at the longer term issues, like the promotion of British meat and the need for a scheme for farmers who want to retire but cannot afford to do so, Mr Gill will say.

He will also reinforce the urgent need to Government to act immediately in killing infected flocks and herds and disposing of carcasses.

He said: "The Government must do whatever it takes to get ahead of this dreadful disease - delays in slaughter are quite unacceptable."

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Updated: October 2005.