Sheep and cows in a Scottish field© John Eveson/FLPA/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

Red meat levy bodies in England, Scotland and Wales have announced a £2m collaboration as an interim arrangement to operate while a new levy system is devised.

The three-way tie-up between the AHDB, Hybu Cig Cymru, (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) will carry out a joint promotion and research programme.

See also: China to lift 20-year ban on British beef

It was agreed after 12 months of talks which sought to overcome an imbalance in funding for the three bodies.

The inequity is caused under the existing system because levies are collected at point of slaughter.

That means, even though Scotland and Wales are major cattle and sheep producers, they miss out on levy funding because much of their livestock is slaughtered across the border in England.

An investigation by HCC suggested as much as £1m of potential levy money was lost to Welsh producers in this way.

The disparity was recognised by ministers at the outset of the levy board talks, which began early in 2017 and the £2m funding for the joint-venture will come solely from AHDB coffers.

Loss of levy income

Gwyn Howells, HCC chief executive, said: “Addressing the issue of the loss of levy income to the Welsh red meat industry has been long awaited.

“While a permanent solution will require legislation, this interim arrangement will allow greater value for money and accountability for Welsh levy payers.

“We look forward to working together with our colleagues in Scotland and England on important programmes of activity in areas such as overseas market access, research and communicating the health benefits of red meat within a balanced diet.”

Quality Meat Scotland’s chief executive Alan Clarke said he was encouraged that the talks had recognised the effect livestock movement around GB had on levies .

“The priority now is to ensure we maximise the benefit to levy payers of the activities delivered from the ring-fenced fund. This collaboration gives us the opportunity to take a joined-up approach to issues that affect the industry, regardless of geography.”

Collaboration opportunity

AHDB chief executive Jane King welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with colleagues across the borders.

“The three GB levy bodies share many challenges and the simple fact is we can more effectively address them through working together.

“Though we already work closely with our colleagues in HCC and QMS on various projects, this new arrangement will take our collaboration to a whole new level, with all three organisations deciding jointly how we will invest this fund to make the biggest impact for the red meat sectors.”

The levy bodies have agreed that effective from the financial year 2018-19 the joint fund will focus on five priority areas to benefit cattle, sheep and pig producers:

  1. International shows and export events
  2. Market access
  3. Brexit preparation
  4. Meat and health, animal health and environment
  5. Research

The ring-fenced fund will boost the international presence and access for British meat in key overseas markets, with particular focus on preparing the red meat sector for the potential challenges and opportunities that are likely to follow Brexit.

In the meat and health, animal health and environment category the three organisations will concentrate on collaborating on positive messaging to counteract negative messages, while work on antimicrobial resistance is expected to dominate the research investment.