19 April 2002

Possible promotion for red meat as MLC restructures

By James Garner

A NEW English livestock body will represent and promote English red meat if industry agrees to the Meat and Livestock Commissions proposals.

The consultation is in response to political devolution. Scotland has already voted to take control of levies raised from stock slaughtered north of the border and Wales is expected to follow suit when the National Assembly announces its plans later this month.

That leaves English levy payers without a body to represent their interests and industry stakeholders have been pushing the MLC to come up with proposals to fill the gap.

As part of its restructuring, the MLC recommends that two new boards – one responsible for pigs, the other for cattle and sheep – direct what happens to levies raised in England and be responsible for promotion. Stakeholders have until Jun 10 to respond.

Meanwhile, the MLC will consolidate its role as an over-arching body for British red meat looking after its interests in Europe and being a forum for change and strategic thinking. As a statuary body it has certain functions it must fulfil, such as providing economic information and forecasting for Britains red meat industry.

An MLC spokesman says the proposal is good news for the English levy payer who will benefit from a more focused representation. Whether an English meat brand will be developed, or several regional ones, will be up to the new body.

But industry has concerns about how the MLCs core functions will be funded by the three regions. Currently, Scotland is proposing to take all the levies raised from slaughtered stock in Scotland and buy back services from the MLC.

Tim Bennett, the NFUs deputy-president, says: "The consultation document is broadly where we would want it to be. But we cant have Scotland, which says it doesnt want to be part of the MLC club, pick and choose what services it wants.

"If Scotland insists on going outside, then the services it takes from the MLC, will effectively be funded by England and Wales, and must be charged at commercial rates."

Peter Scott, director general of the British Meat Federation, adds that Scotland and Wales cant "cherry pick" the best bits of MLC without paying. &#42