15 August 1997


for veal losses

VEAL producers are, at last, to be given government compensation to ease the losses they suffered because of the BSE crisis.

MAFF was expected to announce today (Fri) payments of £36 a calf for specialist veal producers who had calves on their farms before Mar 20 last year that were then sold for human consumption between that date and Nov 9, 1996.

Another condition will be that the animals were less than 12 months old when they were killed, with carcass weights between 80kg-160kg. Applications for the cash will close on Sept 15.

Despite repeated NFU appeals, government, to date, has ignored the plight of the handful of specialist veal producers when it distributed BSE aid. Veal producers not only suffered from the overall slump in beef price and consumption, but also had to pay increased prices for calves because the calf slaughter scheme put an artificially high floor in the market.

Governments intransigence resulted in a group of West Country farmers starting a legal challenge against MAFF, claiming unfair treatment (News, Mar 7). Their case was backed by the NFU, and the farmers were determined to take the fight to the European Court.

It remains to be seen whether or not MAFFs compensation announcement will be sufficient for the producers to drop their action.

Last year, MAFF offered three tranches of beef marketing aid for clean cattle that were on farms before Mar 20 and were then sold between through to Nov 9. But, when the then farm minister, Douglas Hogg, announced the last tranche at the NFUs annual meeting in Feb he infuriated NFU leader Sir David Naish by refusing to give any of the money to the veal sector.

Sir David argued that before the BSE crisis, those farmers had developed their markets, rearing welfare-friendly pink veal, in response to the public backlash about UK calves being exported to continental veal crates. And their future had to be protected.

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