5 June 1998

Stored British beef deal releases food for troops

By Boyd Champness

BRITAINS armed forces will be fed more British beef following a deal secured by government ministers to allow the release 1000t of intervention stocks.

John Spellar, junior defence minister, announced in the House of Commons that the EU Commission had agreed to the release of the stored British beef for use by the forces.

He said the move would substantially increase the proportion of British beef that the armed forces could buy. But the agreement will not extend to troops and staff posted at overseas bases, because of the continuing beef export ban.

He added: "I greatly value the relationship that the armed forces have with the agricultural community. We have been seeking, together with farmers representatives, MAFF and our contractor, ways in which we can increase the proportion of British beef used by the armed forces."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said one of the major problems in the past was that the MoD specified frozen beef, while the domestic industry had geared itself towards supplying either fresh or chilled product. "But obviously, cold-store intervention beef is already frozen, so thats one way of getting around the problem," he said.

A Meat and Livestock Commission spokesman said he believed the agreement would release 1,000t of beef from storage for use by the forces.

MoD figures show that only 30% of its beef requirement, worth £6.7m/year, is currently sourced from the UK, with the other 70% coming from Australia (41%), Uruguay (21%) and New Zealand (8%).

British beefs potential increased share of the market was welcomed by the farming unions as an excellent result of sustained lobbying over the past year.