Devolved bodies call for change to levy system

Promotion of Scotch and Welsh beef and lamb could be at risk unless there is a rethink of the red meat levy distribution system, Hybu Cig Cymru has warned.

HCC, Wales’ red meat promotion body, said it could lose up to half a million pounds in levy money if Vion’s Gaerwen abattoir in Anglesey closes, and slaughtering moves across the border to England.

The Welsh Country Foods plant, which processes about 640,000 lambs a year, announced it was under threat of closure last month after key customer Asda decided to source fresh lamb from another supplier.

Levy money is collected at the point of slaughter and if a plant closes and slaughtering moves to another part of the country, the levy money goes with it – this was the case in Scotland when Vion’s Hall’s of Broxburn plant closed last year and slaughtering moved south of the border to Malton, North Yorkshire.

Speaking at a Farmers’ Union of Wales lunch at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday (30 January), HCC chairman Dai Davies said the Welsh industry already loses up to £1m in levy money a year to EBLEX as a result of Welsh cattle and sheep being slaughtered in England.

The possible closure of the Gaerwen plant could add another half a million pounds to this deficit, he said.

HCC and Quality Meat Scotland were calling for the present payment collection system to remain unchanged, but for a redistribution of levy money between the three bodies based on where the livestock was born and reared rather than where the abattoir is located, added Mr Davies.

In response, BPEX and EBLEX said UK producers benefitted from the levy system in terms of “bigger picture projects” which affected the whole of Great Britain, rather than individual devolved regions.

BPEX chairman Stewart Houston said: “Alongside its regional focus in England, AHDB plays a lead role in this and carries out significant work which directly benefits the wider UK red meat industry and this should be reflected in the way levy is distributed.”

EBLEX chairman John Cross said: “Any change to the system will inevitably involve additional administration, thus reducing the value for money from the levy paid by producers and processors across the UK. We believe that looking at the levy issue in this context, the present system of distribution is the most efficient way of managing investment in the red meat sector.”

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