Compensation unlikely, says minister

Addressing to delegates at the Meat and Livestock Commissions Outlook 2000 conference at London on Wednesday (Jan 26) Ms Quin said these payments — known as agrimoney — were subject to government spending priorities.

She argued that agrimoney would do little to help unsubsidised pig producers who are badly hit by the strong Pound.

Instead Ms Quin warmly welcomed the recent working party reports on red tape in the meat sector and said reductions in red tape costs would help all sectors.

Earlier this month the National Farmers Union launched a campaign for compensation which included £362m unclaimed agrimoney. This is a one-off payment to offset the strength of the Pound against the Euro.

Under terms negotiated by Britain some years ago as part of its budget rebate, the EU would pay £137m leaving the Treasury to contribute £225m.

It is thought that agriculture minister Nick Brown may give the government response to the red tape review at the National Farmers Union AGM next week.

Meanwhile, delegates heard that prospects should be better for the main meat sectors in 2000.

Although beef production will increase by 150,000t following the suspension of calf processing aid, a 7-8% slip in retail prices could boost consumption, said the European Commissions Thorkild Rasmussen.

He predicted sheep production would remain static, while pig production should steady, although price increases in that sector were likely to be small.

Mr Rasmussen claimed any increase in pig production would be absorbed in increased consumption in the EU.

But Brian Revell, economist at Harpers Adam College, Shrops, dismissed increased consumption as nonsense.

“Producers can expect to see greater volatility in prices,” he said.

Prof Revell called for greater rationalisation in the meat industry to keep up with EWU competitors, noting that three co-operatives handle almost all of Denmarks pigmeat.

Some cheer came from John Page of Barclays who estimated the Pound would weaken by 10% against the Euro if the traditional link with the US$ could be uncoupled.

“If it reduced by just half that it would be good news for farmers,” said Mr Page.

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