21 April 2000

Farmers force MoD to cancel major exercise

FARMERS in mid-Wales have forced the Ministry of Defence to cancel a major training exercise.

Operation Pilgrims Progress was to have used privately owned farmland between Newtown and Llandrindod Wells to train crack troops. But many land owners objected and the operation will now have to move to another part of the UK.

The decision to end years of co-operation with the Army followed the revelation that only 2% of the lamb and mutton fed to home-based service personnel in 1999 was home-produced. The MoD claimed that UK suppliers were not competitive on price and could not guarantee to deliver big volumes of frozen sheepmeat.

"My members said that if their land was not good enough to supply the MoD with lamb, it was not good enough for manoeuvres," said Susan Jones, executive officer of Montgomeryshire county FUW branch.

"We all regret having to exclude troops from our land, but feel it is time to draw public attention to the crisis in our industry by forcing the issue of who supplies lamb to our forces."

But when an FUW delegation met MoD procurement minister Lewis Mooney to discuss the worsening relationship between the armed forces and the agricultural industry, they were told that the strong £ made lamb from New Zealand, Uruguay and Australia better value for taxpayers money.

"This is a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs," said Glyn Powell, union vice-president. "The MoD should, as a matter of principle, support British farmers and buy all produce for our troops from British farms." &#42