By James Garner

NUMBERS of stock being entered into the welfare disposal scheme are causing concern for the food chain, despite last weeks announcement of a new carcass stamp that will hopefully boost the number of animals going to slaughter.

Although rumours have been circulating that welfare payments could be cut to limit applications, most observers thought that such a step would be extremely difficult for MAFF to implement.

The meat trade, however, would welcome the move as the welfare disposal scheme has forced lamb prices up, but restricted supplies.

Peter Scott, director general of the British Meat Federation, said: “Meat plants were being forced to pay way above market value for lambs or go down to a two-or three-day killing week.”

But the National Sheep Associations John Thorley said if abattoirs and supermarkets paid a fair price for stock, farmers would prefer to send animals for slaughter.

“The supermarkets say they are backing British. They should back British with some money.”

Currently, hoggets on the scheme are worth 120p/kg up to a ceiling of 45. This is forcing abattoirs to lift prices.

The Meat and Livestock Commission said that hoggets averaged 205p-210p/kg dw last week. Flat-rate payments for this week show that prices have eased up again ranging from 210p to 222p/kg dw.

From 23 April, the new GB carcass stamp will allow healthy animals, previously caught up in restriction zones, to be moved to slaughter and could boost supplies.

Processors have greeted the scheme with mixed feelings as it could add costs. Richard Stevenson of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders said:

“There are positives and negatives. But most processors have taken a positive attitude to it.”

Mr Scott estimated it would cost the meat industry 10m. Farmers might end up footing much of that.