Co-ops wont work in UK, says MLC
REGIONAL co-ops are popular in France because they reduce the uncertainty of lamb prices, but are unlikely to work in the UK.
Lucien and Francoise Pelissier supply more than 750 purebred Hampshire Down lambs to their local co-op, Copa Haute Auvergne, in central France. "Prices are based on the weekly market average with premiums for breed and grade," says Mr Pelissier.
"The co-op has 520 producers supplying more than 130,000 lambs. The Pelissiers are the only producers supplying Hampshire Down lambs, with the main breed being the local Blanche du Massif, French equivalent to the Mule." The running costs of the co-op are covered by a small levy. Costs are minimised by sharing a slaughterhouse with two other co-ops. The abattoir processes more than 0.5m lambs a year.
MLCs Remi Fourrier believes that co-ops would not work in the UK. "UK producers tend to be more independently minded and do not like the idea of being told how to finish their lambs."
But the Copa Haute Augvergne co-op allows Mr Pelissier to decide how to finish his lambs. The only specification is an upper limit of 18kg deadweight, he says.
However, UK producers are often more efficient at lamb production than their French counterparts, and removing their influence and initiative by introducing co-ops would be a backward step, says Mr Fourrier.
Half of all French produced lamb is sold through co-ops instead of auction markets. The Copa Haute Augvergne sells one-third of lamb directly to local butchers for £3.82/kg, the rest being sold to supermarkets at £3.46/kg.
Unlike the UK sheep industry, most lambs are finished where they are born, so cutting down on sheep movements. But the situation in France is changing, with many smaller abattoirs disappearing, he adds. *