8 December 1995

Hopes grow for end to row over SBO disposal

LIVESTOCK auctioneers in England and Wales have agreed a compromise proposal to end the impasse over specified bovine offal (SBO) disposal costs.

The move comes amid growing industry fears over the impact of continued Press speculation about the safety of British beef.

The Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers estimate that scare stories, suggesting a link between BSE and the human brain disease CJD, had caused a drop of up to 20% in domestic beef demand.

Farm minister Douglas Hogg told the Farmers Club on Tuesday that industry conflict over attempts to impose the £3.50 SBO levy was damaging British beefs reputation.

"This public row is fuelling uncertainties about British beef. I hope slaughterhouse operators, farmers and auctioneers can quickly resolve their difficulties."

Auctioneers agreed, at a weekend meeting, that all markets should sell prime cattle and cull cows in bids of 1p/kg liveweight with the final bid declared and recorded at a halfpenny less.

For markets selling cull cows per head the bidding interval would be a minimum of £5, with the final bid declared and recorded at £2.50. The money deducted from the final bids will go towards the meat trades SBO costs. A spokesman for the auctioneers said the proposal "will allow us to return to normal trading to the benefit of all".

He added that auctioneers urged all in the meat industry from producer to butcher to combine their energies toward finding a solution to the whole BSE issue without delay.

Welsh auctioneer Terry Court delayed the start of the Welsh Winter Fairs cattle sale on Tuesday to respond to attacks on the safety of beef.

"It is time all of us involved in the industry were prepared to stand up and be counted. Let us get out and tell those who have no connection with our business, and do not understand it, that there is nothing wrong with British beef," he told a packed ringside crowd.

Peter Scott, general secretary of the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers, said the recent media hysteria surrounding BSE made it vital that the whole meat industry acted together.

He confirmed that the federation had sent a letter to all its members telling them that any organised boycott of auction markets was illegal.

lJim Watson has offered his resignation as chairman of the Live-stock Auctioneers Association. &#42