By FWi staff

THE role of the super-large abattoirs dedicated to serving the biggest multiple retailers has been massively over-played, according to National Beef Association chairman Robert Robinson.

Speaking at last weeks Beef 2000 at Chatsworth, he called for urgent measures to prevent the demise of medium-range abattoirs and cutting plants.

“The Meat Inspection Charges Task Force has made it clear that medium range abattoirs handle 50% of the UKs slaughter cattle.

“This must be measured against research which has shown that fresh meat sold through multiples accounts for only 34% of the 977,000t that makes up overall beef consumption and just 28% of the market.

“Supermarkets are big players, but theirs is still a minority contribution compared with the full range of food activity across the 4 billion sector as a whole.”

And NBA chief executive Robert Forster made a passionate plea on behalf of medium-range abattoirs: “This is not a small abattoirs issue. In a worse case scenario we could see 50% of vitally important medium-range abattoirs pull out under the pressure of meat inspection charges.

“That must not be allowed to happen,” he told producers. The NBAs statistics show that just 21 abattoirs killing over 100 cattle a day account for 49-50% of the national kill.

Around 150 low throughput abattoirs killing a maximum of 20 cattle a week account for only 1% of the national kill.

But 150 medium-range abattoirs killing 200,000 cattle a year and others slaughtering just above the low throughput threshold also handle 49-50%.

“If the Task Force recommendations are accepted the fees for all abattoirs would fall from 36m a year to 25m a year instead of rising to 44m in 2001/02.”