SRMaction sees carcass trade revive
THE £16.5m a year trade in sheep carcasses is set to resume after farm minister Jack Cunningham amended specified risk material (SRM) legislation which had halted the export of 400,000 carcasses a year to France.
Dr Cunningham made the announcement at the opening of the agriculture debate in the Commons last week saying that he had decided to amend the rules, introduced in Jan, in a bid to help exporters regain French markets.
He said: "I know that our SRM controls have had a particularly heavy impact on the returns our sheep farmers have been able to get for their cull ewes this year.
"Because of the requirement for ewe carcasses to be split in the abattoir or cutting plant and the spinal cord removed, French demand for whole carcasses has been met by producers in other countries."
But he said, after discussions with the French authorities, he had decided an amendment to the SRM regulations could be made to allow UK producers to regain this market.
"It will still be necessary to ensure that spinal cord is removed from the carcasses before the meat is sold but this would be carried out by designated French abattoirs."
And he forecast that exports of whole ewe carcasses could resume this summer.
The news was welcomed by industry representatives with the NFU, Scottish NFU and the Meat and Livestock Commission claiming that the announcement was a reward for five months of lobbying for changes.
An MLC official said the decision was a constructive and helpful move at a time when ewe prices were seriously depressed.
But, while Welsh farmers welcomed the planned resumption of whole ewe carcass shipments, a leading exporter warned there would be no quick price rise.
Owen Owen, managing director of Cwmni Cig Cymru, Llangefni, Anglesey, forecast that breeders would hang on to large numbers of sheep hoping for better returns. But they could end up selling on a glutted market to traders struggling to renew their customer bases.
"In the longer term prices will recover, but it may not be this season," claimed Mr Owen.
, whose company previously exported up to 10,000 ewe carcasses/week, mainly to France. "The UK has a lot of work to do to win back lost markets, but it will succeed because we have the sheep, and can provide customers with a first class service.