2 May 1997

Scots threaten militant action at cheap, foreign imports…

CAUTION is being urged by Scottish NFU leaders as rising farmer anger about beef imports threatens to spill over into militant action.

Craig Campbell, SNFU policy director, warned that militancy could spark a trade war. "If we were to blockade ports and refuse entry to beef shipments then they (other EU countries) will take the same action against our lamb," he said.

Mr Campbell was responding to demands from south-west livestock farmers, at a meeting in Dumfries, for a halt on imports of cheap beef. "Nothing is being done to restrict imports of meat which does not match our slaughter and hygiene standards and certainly does not match our BSE controls," said Alan Campbell, Castle Douglas.

And Kirkcudbright farmer Robert Graham added: "We need to be a bit more like the French fishermen when it comes to protecting our interests."

There was also concern that Meat and Livestock Commission proposals to increase promotional levy ceilings would end up helping promote foreign beef imports.

Donald Biggar, president of the SNFU Dumfries and Stewartry area, said: "Unless some way can be found of getting importers to pay levies we would be reluctant to spend more money which would benefit the Germans and the Irish."

Kirkconnel farmer, and member of the Scottish NFU hill farming committee, Jim Walker, was not at the meeting, but said later that imports of cheap, foreign beef must be stopped. "We need to consult the French farmers and fishermen for advice on this subject," he said.

"Unless something is done by the incoming government within the next week or so, we must consider militant action to halt imports. We have nothing to lose."

George Lyon, Scottish NFU vice-president, told FW that he understood the farmers frustrations. The union leadership had looked at the possibility of militant action, but believed it would have a bad effect on the lamb trade.

He believes the EU commission will introduce measures later this month to force all member states to adopt common standards for the removal of specified bovine material and also specified risk material (heads and spleens) from cattle and sheep over a year old.