Brown gives hope to small abattoirs
By Isabel Davies and Alistair Driver
AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown is set to throw a lifeline to struggling small abattoirs which could save them from being driven out of business.
In an announcement expected to be made next week, the minister will slash hygiene charges for small abattoirs, Farmers Weekly has learned.
The move follows advice from an independent taskforce that has urged the government to help contribute 19 million a year towards meat-inspection costs.
The taskforce concluded this summer that lower charges were the only way to prevent more small abattoirs being driven out of business.
Mr Browns decision to boost the abattoir sector will be seen as timely.
The Royal Smithfield Show, which opens in London on Sunday (26 November), is a showcase for British meat and includes a world-famous carcass competition.
Ian Gardiner, deputy director general of the NFU, said: “With the Smithfield Show coming up, we have been pushing very hard on this in the last two weeks.”
The meat-inspection charges task said that government funding should be made available so small abattoirs can be charged for meat inspection on a per-animal basis.
Headage charging is already in place in most European Union countries. But Britain charges for inspection on an hourly basis – very expensive for small plants.
Inspection costs in small abattoirs have rocketed as the amount of veterinary supervision has increased since the BSE crisis.
The taskforce cited a small abattoir in the West Midlands, which has seen its annual inspection costs rise from 17,000 in 1996 to 38,000 in 1999.
If 100% veterinary inspection is introduced next year, the plant operator estimates that his bill will rise to 70,000, the same as his profit for the past three years.
Statistics such as these sparked a campaign attracting supporters from more than over 200 organisations who lobbied to change the inspection charging system.
Organic farmers argued that their livelihoods depended on the survival of small abattoirs. Even the Church waded in, saying abattoirs were vital to rural communities.
- Farmers welcome abattoir report, FWi, 16 June, 2000
- Small abattoirs face decimation, FWi, 15 June, 2000