19 April 1996

Do more for younger animals, says Naish

By Shelley Wright

DESPITE welcoming the governments rescue package for the beef industry, farming leaders insist more has to be done to help producers who finish cattle under 30 months.

NFU leader, Sir David Naish, said: "The market for younger beef animals remains well below the level achieved before the BSE crisis and farmers are losing considerable sums on each animal under 30 months that they sell."

He was pressing farm minister, Douglas Hogg, to use all possible means to help these producers. "He must consider a top-up payment for all younger animals being marketed, an enhanced suckler cow premium, and a higher rate for the beef special premium.

"All such measures will help the specialist beef farmer, who has borne the brunt of the sharp fall in demand at home and of the export ban which was wrongly imposed by Brussels," he added.

Ewen Cameron, Country Landowners Association president, welcomed the package and particularly the commitment to avoid any mass slaughter of healthy cattle. But the failure to compensate producers selling cattle under 30 months had to be addressed.

The NFU said the compensation was an important first step towards resolving the many difficulties in the industry. "The decision to give an extra 25p/kg liveweight on steers and heifers, which are considerably more valuable than cull cows, for at least four weeks recognises the strong concern we expressed to government," Sir David said.

He added that prompt payment of compensation, and the removal of the devalued carcasses from cold stores, would help the whole industry.

There was widespread industry approval that the minister had ruled out any mass slaughter of cattle herds. Reg Haydon, chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association, said the announcement would help restore confidence among dairy farmers.

Both the Labour party and the Lib-Dems broadly welcomed the governments move. Paul Tyler, Lib-Dem agriculture spokesman, said the delay in bringing forward financial aid had been damaging to the whole industry. It was now essential to unblock the stoppage if more bankruptcies and job losses were to be avoided.

Gavin Strang, shadow farm minister, was particularly supportive of plans to improve animal traceability. "This creates an opportunity to develop a range of schemes and to build up consumer confidence in beef in a way that perhaps we should have done in years gone by," he said.