29 May 1998
Farmers’ Ferry ready to weigh anchor
By FWi staff
A HANDFUL of Welsh sheep farmers are raising funds to charter a ferry in the hope of re-opening the live sheep export trade to the Continent.
The five farmers involved have registered a new company, Farmers Ferry Ltd. They are asking producers to contribute £100 for the first 100 ewes and £20 per 100 ewes thereafter, to accumulate the £1.5 million needed to get the project off the ground.
Farmers Ferry Ltd will be a non-profit making enterprise – according to its founders – and needs to be up and running by mid-July to take advantage of the Continental markets. Live exports plummeted to 437,000 head of sheep last year compared with 1.7m in 1994
The roll-on-roll off ship, which will operate between Dover and Dunkirk, will have a maximum capacity of 28 lorries, which equates to about 9000 sheep.
Operators believe the service will be faster and more cost-effective than the walk-on ferry that operated during the 1997 season.
“It will be non-profit making and will simply subsidise the operation of a ferry to provide affordable access to Continental markets. To enable realistic rates to be charged, we anticipate operating at a loss initially, which is why we are asking producers for funds in the form of a gift,” the groups statement said.
Animal welfarists are likely to be outraged by the move. However, the schemes initiators hope to work with interested parties to draft a code of good practice. Watchdog organisations such as the RSPCA will be invited to carry out inspections.
The National Farmers Union has distanced itself from the project, fearing that it could scupper plans to get P&O ferries to carry stock again. In contrast, the Farmers Union of Wales has backed the plan.