OTMS price cuts spark renewed backlog fears

11 July 1997

OTMS price cuts spark renewed backlog fears

FARMERS fear they will be unable to get cattle into the over-30-month scheme before payments are cut on Aug 4 because of the introduction next week of new OTMS slaughter contracts with abattoirs.

The NFU has written to the Intervention Board warning that the 26 slaughterhouses awarded OTMS contracts from July 14 will be unable to cope with the anticipated throughput, and that a backlog will result.

Stephen Rossides, NFU head of livestock, said he was not satisfied that MAFF or the Intervention Board had grasped the issue, and called on government to delay the introduction of OTMS contracts until after the price cut.

Mr Rossides said the Intervention Board had based its contracts on recent throughput, and would not be able to cope with more than 15,000 animals a week. The slaughterhouses will also be accepting cattle killed under the selective cull scheme, though these will be handled separately.

"We are concerned that a backlog will develop and that farmers will be unable to get their stock into the scheme before the cuts on Aug 4," he added.

The new contract has reduced the number of abattoirs participating in the OTMS scheme in Scotland, England and Wales from 48 to 26.

The NFU is also concerned about the welfare considerations over the lack of OTMS abattoirs in central England and that there are only two slaughterhouses in Wales – Dewi James, Cardigan and Welsh Country Foods, Angelsey – which have been awarded contracts.

Peter Scott, Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers spokesman, agreed the Intervention Boards timing had been awry and could cause problems, but that any delay in the contracts would result in extra costs totalling £1m.

"The Treasury is adamant that this is to be introduced without delay and confident that disruption wont take place."

Mr Scott added that each abattoir had been given an area to source its animals to prevent stock being transported hundreds of miles.

An Intervention Board spokeswoman said it had reduced rates from the industry-wide £41 a head figure agreed with slaughterers last year through competitive tendering, claiming the measure will save £12m.

But it declined to give details of individual contracts, saying the information was commercially confidential.

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