24 May 2002

Thumbs-down for MLC from red meat men

By James Garner

LEADERS of the red meat industry have knocked the Meat and Livestock Commissions proposals for reform of its services after devolution.

At the British Meat Federations annual conference in London last week, its members debated the MLCs proposals for reform, which were triggered by the setting up of independent bodies in Scotland and Wales to handle red meat promotion.

This has forced the MLC into making provisions for English levy payers after Scotland and Wales both voted to take control of levies raised on animals slaughtered in those countries.

Stakeholders have until June 10 to respond and Peter Scott, director of the British Meat Federation, said the organisation would be formulating its response shortly.

"The problem is that the MLC has consulted separately on Wales, Scotland and England and it is very difficult to understand without comparing all three proposals," Mr Scott added.

Under the MLCs plans two new English strategy bodies would be set up to govern the pig and the cattle and sheep industries, and a new promotional body, called Team England, would be formed to promote English meat.

Mr Scott said his members were concerned that both Quality Meat Scotland and Antur Cig Cymru could cherry-pick the services they wanted, leaving English farmers and processors picking up the bill for the rest of the MLC.

"Who will pay for the less popular bits? It will be the English levy payer. ACC and QMS have to either buy into the whole system or not at all. English levies contribute 77% of total funding of the MLC and so English levy payers should have 77% of the clout when it comes to saying what they want."

He also added that Team England appeared to have less independence than ACC or QMS, as it would essentially remain part of the MLC.

"There are also significant difficulties in national branding caused by the movement of livestock over national borders. This makes the retention of the "British" label a key issue for many BMF members."

The BMF preferred a federal approach with Team England having the same powers as ACC and QMS, with each body paying for central core services from what remains of the MLC. &#42

If ACC and QMS are not prepared to commit to this then they should establish their own national organisations, added Mr Scott.

Peter Scott warns that English levy payers may face a bigger bill for MLCservices than their Welsh and Scottish counterparts.