6 December 1996

MLC axes three offices in beef recovery effort

By Shelley Wright

ONGOING financial difficulties, caused by the beef crisis, have forced the Meat and Livestock Commission to close three of its five EU offices and axe some of its domestic work.

The NFU, which has been pressing MLC to cut its spending rather than rely on producers and the industry to pay higher levies, welcomed the move. Ben Gill, NFU deputy president, insisted that the closure of the three offices was unlikely to have any adverse effect on producers.

The offices in Italy, Germany and Spain will close, leaving MLCs continental presence confined to Paris and Brussels. And, in Britain, the commission will end its involvement in auction market design, and reduce its work on carcass evaluation and butchery.

A total of 20 jobs will be lost, saving about £1m, said a spokesman. MLC director general, Colin Maclean, insisted the changes, and savings made, would allow the commission to focus clearly on recovering the market for beef at home, and getting the beef export markets open again.

But the savings will not be allocated elsewhere; they were essential just to keep MLC within its budget, the spokesman said. Since Mar 20 the number of cattle slaughtered has slumped by 19%, leading to a drop in the commissions income from beef levies.

Mr Gill acknowledged the work MLC had done to develop EU markets, but maintained that the business for sheep and pigmeat was now operating at a level where further expansion would simply lead to over-supply and a drop in prices. Exporters were perfectly capable of maintaining existing trade without the three MLC offices he said.

And he believed that MLC needed to reduce its expenditure even further and concentrate only on its core business.n

MLC cuts

&#8226 20 posts axed.

&#8226 Milan, Frankfurt and Madrid offices to close.

&#8226 Auction mart design work to end.

&#8226 Carcass evaluation and butchery work reduced.

&#8226 administration streamlined