7 June 1996

E Anglia disillusioned over 30-month scheme

THROUGHPUT of cattle slaughtered under the governments 30-month slaughter scheme in East Anglia has been minimal, figures released on Tuesday show.

Only two abattoirs in the region are participating in the scheme and just 3146 cattle over 30 months had been slaughtered by Tuesday. Cheales Brentwood, Essex, plant had slaughtered a total of 3046 and another 100 were slaughtered at Blakes abattoir, Norwich, last Saturday.

Beef producers in the region have warned local MPs, including environment minister, John Gummer, and farm minister, Douglas Hogg, of unprecedented disillusionment among farmers over the governments handling of the crisis.

George Simon, Suffolk NFU vice-chairman and a suckler beef producer, said he had no cattle over 30 months. "Our main problem has been a marketing one," he said.

Last years Continental cross calves from the spring-calving herd were ready to sell about six weeks ago. Having sold about half, Mr Simon estimates the suckler enterprise is about £120-£130 a head down on its annual sales output.

He is calling for a top-up to suckler cow premium payments and said this could be made under existing EU rules. Other member states have been paying extra as a matter of course, he added.

Mr Simon has warned his local MP, John Gummer, that many previously loyal farmers are vowing never to vote Tory again. "We have not had any gesture of commitment or good will towards us as ordinary beef producers producing under 30 months, which is the vast majority after all," he said.

Lincs suckler producer Alan Bishop, who recently raised a whole list of concerns with his local MP, Douglas Hogg, also called for help to raise clean beef prices.

He reckoned producers were losing about £150-£200 a head on clean beef and called for a deficiency type payment based on pre-crisis Meat and Livestock Commission average prices.

Commenting on the 30-month scheme, Mr Bishop suggested one abattoir to serve the whole of the Lincs was not enough. And neither the government nor the NFU was aware of the scale of the undertaking when the scheme was proposed. &#42