With sales of beef in the Balearics down by as much as 70 percent because of increasing consumer fears over mad cow disease, the Majorcan Farmers' Union yesterday urged the local and national governments to draw up a damage limitation plan specifically designed in helping the Balearics overcome mad cow psychosis. The Farmers' Union also want the authorities to purchase the beef mountain of unwanted meat at a fixed price of 550 pesetas a kilo. Farmers' Union co-ordinator, Joan Mas, said yesterday that the mad cow crisis was not only hitting the beef sector, but the farming community as a whole. The dairy sector is suffering just as much as the beef producers and Mas said that the price of a litre of Balearic milk is selling at 12 pesetas less than on the mainland. But the consequences of the mad cow crisis in the Balearics are far more serious than on the mainland. The beef scare has come just months after the islands were rocked by the Blue Tongue virus which claimed the lives of over 5'000 sheep and as a result livestock cannot be exported from the Balearics for two years, Mas stressed yesterday. Mas said that if the Balearic government cannot adequately cope, then it should look to Brussels for aid to help the ailing farming community. The Farmers' Union has also urged the local government to speed up efforts in launching a campaign to try and revive consumer confidence in local beef. The past few years have been particularly harsh on local farmers, first the drought, then the lamb scare and now mad cow and thousands of consumers have modified their diets, excluding lamb and beef.

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