21 January 2000

Board under OTMS pressure

THE Intervention Board is under increasing pressure for its handling of the Over-30-Month Scheme for cattle as a result of problems with late payments and backlogs in getting cattle into the scheme.

Farmers across the country who use livestock collection centres for their OTMS cattle have been hit by late payments in the early part of this year.

Some supplying Guildford market in Surrey have not received OTMS payments for cattle that were taken to market seven or eight weeks ago. Normally payments take about four weeks, but West Sussex farmer Stephen Thomas said he is still owed £4000 for cattle he took to the market on Nov 30.

Guildford market cull co-ordinator Beverley Ewens said the market cannot pay farmers until it has received money from the IB. She has heard of similar problems in nearby markets.

The IB says the problems have been caused by the transfer of the OTMS payment centre from Newcastle to Reading towards the end of last year and pressures from high seasonal culling numbers.

A spokeswoman said the IB has allocated extra staff to tackle the problem and hopes to have caught up by the end of the month.

In Devon, where Okehampton-based abattoir West Devon Meats has recently lost its OTMS contract, backlogs of four to five weeks have been reported. This is partly due to problems in re-allocating OTMS cattle from West Devon Meat to plants in Somerset and Cornwall.

But an IB spokeswoman said the system had generally been running smoothly since the change in the allocation of OTMS contracts at the beginning of the year. &#42