23 January 2001
Unions condemn sheep premium cut

By FWi staff

UNION leaders have condemned a decision by Brussels to reduce the Sheep Annual Premium by more than 20% for 2000.

The EU sheep management committee has decided to set the premium at 10.73 – compared to 13.58 in 1999 and 16 the previous year.

The National Farmers Union claims the cut will cost the industry 55 million and is not justified by the 10% rise in prices last year.

NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said: “UK sheep farmers will be extremely annoyed at this reduction.

“It means that the SAP has fallen by one-third since 1998 while prices last year remained at 1998 levels.”

David Mitchell, chairman of the National Farmers Union of Scotland livestock committee, said: “Sheep farmers cannot withstand indefinitely this haemorrhaging of their principal system of support.”

He warned that, with an estimated net income of 700 this year on specialist Scottish sheep farms, the reduction would have a disastrous effect on incomes.

Both unions laid the blame on the weakness of the Euro against the Pound and on the way the premium was calculated.

The NFU said Brussels had failed to adjust the “basic price” for sheepmeat in accordance with the conditions set out in its own regulation.

It expressed reservations about the erosion of the level of the technical coefficient and said the 7% stabiliser reduction should have been abolished when quotas were introduced.

The NFUS called for a review of the regime, favouring a move towards a fixed premium.

The Less Favoured Area supplement was set at 4.07.