7 September 2001

Storage aid doubts

DOUBTS have been cast on the effectiveness of the poorly subscribed sheep meat private storage aid scheme designed to take surplus lamb off the market.

All the initial tenders were rejected by Brussels.

Bids ranged from k1256/t (£787/t) to k2611/t (£1637/t), and the NFUs Kevin Pearce reckons the commission is cautious about paying too much. "Last time private storage aid was used the rate was k1400/t (£875/t), and even that was considered too high."

Processors still have a chance to re-submit their bids; the second stage of the scheme closes on Sept 17 and Mr Pearce hopes the response will be better. "We will be talking with the industry to see what went wrong."

But Terry Bayliss, chairman of lamb processor and exporter, Farmers First, said: "At the moment we are struggling to find lambs and I cant really see the big surplus that is predicted."

Meanwhile, frozen British lamb will appear on supermarket shelves after Sainsbury announced it will replace New Zealand sheep meat with home-grown product.

Purchase of farm assured lambs will rise by 8%, or 2000 a week. &#42