Scots are told they must wait for their sheep premium
DELAYS to sheep annual premium payments are putting Scottish farmers at a disadvantage to those south of the border.
Advance payments for the 1995 scheme, worth £12.34 a ewe (equivalent to 60% of the expected final rate), started going out on July 21 in Wales and on July 24 in England. An advance LFA supplement worth £4.72 a ewe is also being paid and the whole process is likely to be finished by the end of August.
But in Scotland no payments have been made and none are expected until late September. "We have a separate system to MAFF and do not always work in tandem. Also, we have more hill farmers and fewer staff," said a Scottish Office spokeswoman. "Sheep producers normally get paid in the autumn and that is when they will be paid," she added.
This will come as little consolation to those Scottish farmers who are having to sell their lambs now to maintain cash flow at a time when the trade is at a seasonal low.
"These delays could also have a damaging effect on the impending breeding sales in Scotland," said John Scott, convener of the Scottish NFUs hill farming committee, who also runs 1200 breeding ewes at Balkissock Farm, near Girvan, Ayrshire.
"What we need is confidence in the market-place. Having the advance would have given it a real boost. But now, with finished lambs so weak, breeding values could slip. As always, the buck stops with the primary producer.
"I will be very upset if the Scots are treated differently. Whatever the need is in England, the need is greater in Scotland."
These views were echoed by John Elliot, vice-chairman of the British Wool Marketing Board, who runs 890 ewes at Roxborough Mains, Kelso. "Every year our payments have been late. It is one feeble excuse after another. All hell will break loose if they (the English and Welsh) get paid and we dont."
Welsh farmer Tim Bennett, who also chairs the NFU Less Favoured Areas committee, said he welcomed the earlier advance, which would help with cash flow at a difficult time of year. But he believed everyone in the UK should get it at the same time to prevent distortions in the market.
• Sheep producers can now sell quota to members of the same partnership, without being subject to the 15% syphon.
The new rules, adopted in Brussels last week, will apply for the 1995 calender year. But those farmers involved must continue to produce and stay within the partnership for three years after the transfer has been made. This also applies to family partnerships.