19 April 1996

MLChit by lost cattle levies

By Shelley Wright

THE Meat and Livestock Commission faces a financial crisis with the loss of more than £130,000 a week in levies caused by the ban on cattle over 30 months from the food chain.

The MLC cattle levy, for animals going for human consumption, is £4.35 a beast. That is split, with £2.05 as general levy to fund the running of the commission, and £2.30 used for beef promotion.

With the NFU now predicting that about 30,000 cattle a week are likely to be excluded from the food chain, the MLCs weekly levy loss will be £130,500 which over a year represents well over £6.5m. Last year the commissions income from cattle levies was about £9.6m.

An MLC spokesman admitted that the loss could cause serious problems for the commission. But he insisted sheep and pig producers would not face any increase in their levy to compensate for the beef slump.

"We dont know what the exact loss will be yet but I guess well have to do a fair bit of housekeeping. The sort of money we stand to lose will obviously affect our abilities to run advertising campaigns."

And the prospect of a selective slaughter policy, still being considered by the government, would dent MLC funds even more. But the commission has no plans yet to seek compensation for its losses from the government. "Until we know exactly what the BSE policy is, and have an accurate figure for our losses then we cant think about claiming for compensation," the spokesman said.

But despite the dramatic reduction in funds the MLC was currently working on beef promotion campaigns. There was absolutely no point, however, in launching anything at the moment because the market was still in chaos. &#42