3 May 1996

Manufacturers say pay compensation for our BSE losses

By Shelley Wright

FEED manufacturers are demanding £3.7m compensation from government for losses associated with the BSE crisis.

But the supply trade body UKASTA, which represents the feed industry, admits its claim is unlikely to be accepted by MAFF. It has sent three letters to junior farm minister Angela Browning during April but so far has had no reply.

Jim Reed, UKASTA director general, said "relatively junior MAFF officials" had suggested that the claim was unlikely to be successful. "But we want to hear that from ministers. It would be helpful if they would let us know."

The £3.7m claim was based on feed left at mills made with meat and bonemeal (MBM) before the April 4 ban on its inclusion in all animal feeds.

"Compounders cannot do anything with that feed now and we estimate its value at £2.7m," Mr Reed said. The other £1m was to cover outstanding contracts some manufacturers had entered into, before the ban, to buy MBM from the rendering industry.

Feed firms with outstanding stocks of feed with MBM now faced a bill of between £40-£50/t to have the feed dumped in landfill sites. "We see no good reason at all why feed manufacturers should have to bear that cost," said Mr Reed.

The possibility of some farmers launching legal challenges against feed manufacturers over sales of MBM contaminated ruminant feed that occurred after the 1988 ban has also worried the industry.

"We are concerned because once legal actions start flying around then the industry will end up in a great morass," said Mr Reed.

"If farmers bring action against a feed manufacturer then he would probably pass the action back to the renderer who would then refer it back to the abattoir. And then, of course, the slaughterer bought the livestock from the farmer, so you come full circle."

The only people who would benefit would be lawyers, he suggested. And it would be tremendously difficult for anyone to prove what had actually caused a case of BSE.

Mr Reed again warned farmers that they faced an increase of at least 25% in their summer feed bills. "Raw material prices are going up and up especially alternative protein sources (rather than MBM) like soya, where prices are just zooming up. And fishmeal is already in short supply," he said.