19 July 2002

Co-op slaughter plant

AFTER trading for a year, Welsh Livestock Ltd – the farmer owned co-operative arm of the Welsh Meat Company – is about to start slaughtering at a refurbished abattoir in Powys.

The mothballed plant was reopened to slaughter lambs under the Welfare Disposal Scheme but required major alterations to obtain a licence to kill primestock. The development is in collaboration with the abattoirs owners Oriel Jones and Son, which is part of the Dungannon Group.

WMC has been involved in a joint venture with the company. This and a number of other successful marketing initiatives has allowed its directors to recommend that some of the generated surplus be paid in dividends to farmer investors. &#42

&#8226 The latest figures published by the National Assembly for Wales show 28,410 holdings with an average area of 52ha (125 acres).

&#8226 About 27% of agricultural land is classified as rough grazing, including 11% that is common. Almost 80% is designated as less favoured, with 53% in the severely disadvantaged category.

&#8226 In 2000 Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance claims from a total of 12,509 units were approved and £42.1m paid out.

&#8226 Before foot-and-mouth Welsh farms carried 1.3m cattle, including 268,565 dairy cows. There were 11m sheep on 15,088 farms, and 67,000 pigs were run on 921 holdings.

&#8226 About 11,000 farms received a total of £15,780,000 in sheep annual premium, and £19.7m of suckler cow premium went to 7000 holdings.

&#8226 There were 27,500 beef special premium claims. Payments totalled £19.6m. Extensification subsidy paid to 10,400 Welsh farmers amounted to £13.4m.

&#8226 £7m went to farmers in Environmentally Sensitive Areas in 2000/01, and £3.2m was spent on organic farming aid.

&#8226 In the year before foot-and-mouth struck 5.6m finished and store sheep realised an estimated £173m, and 544,500 cattle around £211m.

&#8226 The Welsh Assembly has limited agricultural powers. Policy issues are debated by a cross party agricultural committee chaired by Glyn Davies, a Tory AM who farms in north Powys. Since early July farming has been part of the portfolio of a minister for rural development and Wales overseas. Mike German, Lib-Dem leader at the assembly, holds the brief as part of the coalition administration in Cardiff.

&#8226 Wales has two farming unions, both led by Anglesey farmers. Peredur Hughes is in his first full year as president of NFU Cymru and Bob Parry is in his last as president of the Farmers Union of Wales.