16 November 2001

QUESTIONS ABOUND POST-F&M

The profound impact of the

foot-and-mouth epidemic on

the UK meat industry will

reverberate for years to

come. Robert Davies

talked about prospects

with MLC experts

ONE thing they all agree on is that it has never been more difficult to forecast short and medium-term production levels, or demand on domestic and export markets. Their message for livestock producers is that there are more questions than readily available answers about the future.

One certainty is that the whole food chain faces a further period of fundamental change, and farmers have no option but to monitor that change and adapt to it.

No sector of meat production, processing and marketing will escape the upheaval, and there will be many business casualties.

To survive, primary producers have to be highly efficient and improve their marketing. This requires them to be much more aware of what is happening beyond their farm gates. They must also consciously back all efforts to boost British meat sales at home and abroad.

This could mean changing the livestock breeds and crosses they use, or taking more care about marketing animals with the right fat cover or, perhaps, co-operating more with other producers, abattoirs and retailers.

Every MLC department is working on strategies that could give UK livestock farming a sustainable future, but the FMD-induced fall in levy income will limit spending. The sometimes-maligned experts at Milton Keynes are self-effacing enough to admit that they have no miracle cure for the industrys ills, but they claim to be ready to help nurse the patient back to health.