2 May 2001
MLC asks for 25m recovery cash

By Alistair Driver

THE Meat and Livestock Commission has asked the government for 25 million to help it promote British meat and restructure the industry after foot-and-mouth.

The MLC would use the money to boost sales as part of a long-term recovery strategy which is likely to involve a radical restructuring of the industry.

MLC chairman Peter Barr told the House of Commons Agricultural Select Committee on Wednesday (2 May) that there was an urgent need for funds.

“By spending the money now, we will get our levy back in the long term.”

“We need to get sales moving because it is much easier to do it quickly than when shopping habits are broken.”

Among the restructuring plans, Mr Barr said stricter hygiene measures should be introduced to prevent a re-run of foot-and-mouth and similar diseases.

He also called for improved farm assurance and wider co-operation within the food chain to give farmers more influence in the market place.

The request for 25m reflects the financial crisis facing the organisation because of the reduction in British animals going into the food chain.

The MLC could lose an estimated 5m in income from levies on livestock which have been slaughtered or are due to be killed to contain foot-and-mouth.

The MLC normally earns about 34m a year – two-thirds of its income -from the levies paid by farmers and abattoirs. The money is used to promote meat.

It is believed to have lost 1m in the first two months of the crisis from more than 800,000 cattle, sheep and pigs that were kept out of the food chain.

The final deficit could be even higher. Many breeding animals have been lost – a disaster which seriously threatens to affect the long-term recovery of farming.

An MLC spokesman warned: “There is a danger that the MLC will have to look long and hard at its activities and reduce spending in some areas.”

The recovery strategy will see the launch of new promotional and marketing initiatives to regain the support of UK consumers and recapture foreign markets.

“Nine weeks of relentless coverage media coverage of burning funeral pyres has had an effect on consumers,” the spokesman said.

The first part of the new strategy will be unveiled on Friday (4 May), when the MLC launches the next stage of its long-term pig marketing campaign.

This will focus on selling the parts of the pig that used to be mainly exported, mainly the forequarter, on the UK market.

The sheep industry will require an even more dramatic marketing boost to aid its recovery. It has lost over 2m animals and its lucrative export market.

National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley said the key for the industry now was to get supermarkets to pay better prices for British produce.

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