12 March 1999

Sheep tags – pressure grows

SHEEP producers are being urged by both MLC and NSA to bow to EU pressure for individual tagging of lambs to improve traceability and help secure export markets.

Speaking at the SIA Show, MLCs Paris-based director Remi Fourrier said Continental consumers are principally concerned with the origin of meat following health scares including BSE.

"The co-operative structure in France makes it easy to have traceability back to place of origin and in this respect consumers here see anything labelled as produce of France as a quality product. Traceability isnt quality in itself, but for exports its a basic requirement," said Mr Fourrier.

To win support in overseas markets, exporters must be able to supply details of origin, health status, feed and complete traceability, he added. "Until we get support from the UK industry to do this new markets cannot be developed."

NSAs Chris Lloyd, also at the show, agreed that despite producer resistance based on costs of additional tagging, traceability of each animal back to individual holding was a minimum requirement. "The French really are setting the pace and we must conform to protect valuable exports."

MLCs French equivalent, Interbev, made traceability an integral part of the central display at SIA using an interactive displays with button pressing and lighting to attract consumers and children.

However, MLCs UK-based export manager Henry Lewis remains sceptical over French claims of traceability. "There are gaps in the system; for a start whos auditing it?"

Despite these doubts, producers involved in initiatives on the MLC stand agreed extra tagging may be necessary to guarantee access to export markets.