05 September 1997
Abattoir takeover plans to cut plant numbers
By Tony McDougal and Allan Wright
ABATTOIR bosses are drawing up plans to rationalise the slaughterhouse industry and cut throughput capacity in the British cattle and sheep sector by up to 30%.
The move, which follows the failure of the Meat and Livestock Commission initiative 18 months ago, is designed to remove the high level of over-capacity in the industry and boost profit margins.
David Maunder, director of Devon-based abattoir Lloyd Maunder, is chairing a group of 13 leading slaughterhouse bosses, which is looking to form a venture company to fund a system of buy-outs for plants intending to close.
Mr Maunder said the group was looking particularly at the 140 dual-species (cattle and sheep) plants, which have a throughput of more than 5000 livestock units a year (1 unit = 1 cow or 10 sheep).
He said the rationalisation was needed because of the steady fall in lamb throughput throughout the 1990s, especially during the summer months. Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food show the breeding flock has fallen by 3-4% a year since 1991.
The problem has been made worse by farmers claiming subsidy on ewes which are not being bred from, and environmental legislation which has demanded lower stocking densities on heather moorland. And with the age profile of producers and consumers who eat lamb increasing, future prospects were not rosy, said Mr Maunder.
He argued that financial benefits provided to beef plants through the Over Thirty-Months Scheme over the past 18 months would also diminish. “I think the beef industry has problems to overcome (during) the next 6-18 months.”
The group is keen to stop the system of abattoirs which go into receivership being bought up and reopened at low cost.