29 September 1995

Sheep industry losing its way

BRITAINS sheep industry could lose direction and go into sharp decline if it is not guided properly.

Joe Stoddart, president of the National Sheep Association, said that to help prevent that the NSA had compiled a new report, Sheep UK – our natural hidden asset.

Launching the report this week, Mr Stoddart said copies would be sent to all members of both houses of Parliament, and other "opinion formers".

Compiled by Joe Read, former head of sheep services with the Meat and Livestock Commission, and Prof Ian Cunningham of Edinburgh University, the report illustrates the contribution made by UK sheep farmers to the total agricultural output.

It also stressed that support payments, especially in the hill and upland areas, must continue because it was impossible to farm profitably without them. It added that support payments accounted for about one third of total income from sheep.

The NSA endorsed the view that production support payments should remain, with environmental objectives tackled alongside. Decoupling the two was an unacceptable option, said Mr Stoddart.

"Provided the electorate as a whole get value for money in terms of prime lamb, wool and a well cared for, sustainable countryside, the natural, renewable resource provided by sheep farming will continue to be an essential part of the UK economy," he said.