No more abattoirs for OTMS but extra capacity promised
GOVERNMENT has refused to bow to pressure from the NFU to raise the number of abattoirs taking livestock from the over-30-month scheme.
But the Intervention Board promised this week that it will increase throughput capacity within the 26 abattoirs to 20,000 animals a week until the OTMS payment rate was cut on Aug 4.
NFU president Sir David Naish told junior farm minister Jeff Rooker on Tuesday that some OTMS abattoirs were fully-booked and that farmers were having to go on waiting lists.
But Mr Rooker said he believed capacity under the latest slaughter contract was now sufficient and that the government could not accept more than 20,000 animals a week because of restrictions on the rendering capacity in the UK.
The Livestock Auctioneers Association reported auctioneers had been unable to send animals to slaughter this week because abattoirs were already fully booked.
"I have had two auctioneers phone me saying they cant move animals. I dont blame farmers for forward planning, but it is ridiculous that they are booked up already," said David Tomlinson, LAA chairman.
Mr Tomlinson said the position was similar to when the government imposed the first OTMS price cut in Oct 1996, and he predicted livestock could be sent hundreds of miles because of the paucity of abattoirs.
"Here in Cumbria we have one of the highest densities of cattle, but havent got an OTMS abattoir within 80 miles of Carlisle market. We could end up having to transport animals all the way to Angelsey."
The Intervention Board released guidelines late last week asking auction marts, acting as collection centres for the OTMS scheme, not to take any more than five animals a farm a day.
A spokesman said this was designed to enable as many producers as possible to get cattle through the system before the compensation cut, but the NFU said it could cause problems to abattoirs that have already pre-booked cattle.
Jim Watson, auctioneer at Banbury-based Midland Marts, said he expected some difficulties until Aug 4, but then expected abattoirs to be in difficulty meeting their OTMS quota.n