By Olivia Cooper

SHEEP farmers who use an abattoir in Wales could soon be 1.70 a lamb better off, thanks to a new scheme being launched by Safeway.

The supermarket is planning to build an on-site disinfecting and inspection area, costing about 36,000, at the Hamer International abattoir in Powys, Wales.

This will save farmers having to haul lambs to a collection point to disinfect their vehicle and have lambs inspected at a cost of 3 a lamb.

Instead, the integrated system will cost farmers less than half this amount at 1.30/lamb.

High trading costs related to foot-and-mouth have caused some farmers to keep lambs off the market, leading to one supermarket, Somerfield, complaining of a lamb shortage earlier this week.

Although it hasnt experienced such a shortage, a spokeswoman for Safeway said that sales of lamb are 31% above pre-foot-and-mouth levels, and the scheme should provide a more consistent supply of lamb to the abattoir.

“We believe this system will reduce costs for farmers, and allow us to sell lamb at a competitive price, encouraging customers to buy more British lamb,” says Safeway director, Kevin Hawkins.

The scheme is expected to be running by the autumn, although Safeway is awaiting a decision by the Welsh Development Agency, who might provide a grant for the project.

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