16 October 1998


Get export buyer back into market

Peter Stevensons questioning of the economic need for trading live sheep to the Continent illustrates the general lack of appreciation of how the market currently works in the UK (Letters, Oct 10).

The plain facts are that in 1994 a total of 1.7m sheep and lambs were traded giving UK producers an income in excess of £100m. By 1997 the number had fallen to 437,000 and the income to just £24m. However, the simple lack of sales is not the whole picture.

Without the opportunity to trade with the Continent, export buyer activity reduced markedly. This left all the buying power in the hands of a few purchasing stock, primarily on behalf of the major retailers.

Simple economics show that a fall in demand, with the same level of supply, causes the price to fall. Incidentally, we are all acutely aware that the price paid for lamb in the supermarket by the consumer has not fallen in-line with producer returns.

This is still not the complete picture. The price paid for deadstock in the UK is set with reference to the average price paid each week in the livestock market. Surprise, surprise… Not only have the major buyers excluded competition from the market and forced down the price for live animals, but they have also forced down the price for the carcass trade. The Office of Fair Trading please note.

All those who believe deadstock will give a fair return are simply wrong and playing into the hands of those who have the power to manipulate the market.

The aim of the Farmers Ferry is to get the export buyer back into the market, to provide competition against the retail buyers and to get the producer a fair return. We are not asking for price support or subsidy; we are not asking for public money. We simply want to try and trade our way out of the economic crisis.

I am glad that Mr Stevenson recognises our efforts to raise welfare standards. Farmers Ferry recently signed up to the National Sheep Associations code of conduct on transport welfare which is currently being drafted. This takes our commitment to welfare beyond the obligations required by law.

If there are operators flouting the rules elsewhere on the Continent, we welcome the efforts of Compassion in World Farming to bring those responsible to justice. Stopping the UK trade and bankrupting UK farmers will not solve problems in Italian abattoirs or Greek ports.

David Owen,

Company secretary, Farmers Ferry.

Lobby EU over live exports

Regarding the plea from Peter Stevenson for farmers to abandon live exports (Letters Oct 2), the examples he documented are indeed very distressing. But surely, the only way forward is to persistently lobby the EU Parliament in order to eliminate cruelty to animals on the Continent?

If this is unsuccessful, then the very least that animal welfare organisations can do is to give their wholehearted support to Britains farmers and the Buy British campaign. Furthermore, they should stop producing literature, some of which I have in front of me, that gives the general public a totally wrong idea about farmers.

The message is clear, get off our backs and help us in a positive way.

R &#42 Collins

Downhayes Farm, Lewdown, Devon.

Check Europes animal welfare

I welcome the letter from the political and legal director of Compassion in World Farming urging UK farmers to abandon live exports (Letters, Oct. 2). It is pleasing to read a letter from a single-issue lobby group that is both balanced and restrained.

I urge Compassion in World Farming to direct its efforts at improving standards in those European countries which do not yet apply the high standard of welfare in the rearing, transport and slaughter of farm animals achieved in the UK.

Moreover, I urge that it uses its resources and undoubted political clout against those UK organisations which continue to import meat from those countries.

It is surely difficult with moral and intellectual integrity to ask for the support of UK farmers, while seeking to deny to them a legitimate market for their products and turning a blind eye to those who import meat produced without regard to animal welfare standards. In doing so, this assists the government in undermining the viability of the UK livestock industry.

P.D. Mather

Belford on Bowmont, Kelso, Roxburghshire.

Get off British farmers backs

I read Peter Stevensons letter (Oct 2) with interest and say to him, congratulations, you have helped to achieve the highest welfare standards in the world here in the UK.

So, now the job has been well done, its time to take your efforts elsewhere. Its no use telling farmers in this country not to partake in the inter-community trade in livestock; what you need to do now is to go and preach your message in other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.

Only by doing so can you help to foster worldwide compassion for animals. If France has not implemented EU legislation, go to Brussels and persuade the commission to ensure that the legislation is enforced.

If theres a problem in Italy, go there and see what you can achieve. If you dont believe that live exports are economically necessary, start to buy lambs in UK markets and export the carcasses. If you make a profit, its more money for your cause.

If you really believe in compassion to animals, you will agree that a 4hr boat trip across the channel from Dover has to be better than a 22hr trip from Eire.

So come on Mr Stevenson, live up to your title, get off our backs and get the rest of the world up to our standards.

Derek Lomax

Chapel Bank, Crosscrake, Kendal, Cumbria

Rest rules clear on export drives

I am very surprised and outraged by the comments made by Mr Stevenson (Letters, Oct 2) about live exports and his suggestion that under the directive sheep can be transported for 30hr with a one hour rest period.

I have never heard so much rubbish! The facts are that sheep may be transported under the Animal Welfare Transport Order 1997 in high grade vehicles for 14 hours with a mid-journey rest period of one hour after which they may be transported for a further 14 hours before they must be offloaded and rested in a MAFF Approved lairage for 24 hours. Furthermore, before those animals are loaded into the high grade vehicles they are checked over by vets to make sure that they are fit to travel to Europe.

Vehicles that come into this high grade category have the highest of welfare standards – second to none. I personally run such a high grade vehicle that has on board: water drinkers, lifting decks, cesspit, mechanical ventilation (fans) and a thermograph that tells the driver, and records, the temperature within each compartment in the vehicle. You may be interested to know that such a vehicle costs £100,000 and is designed so that animals are transported in the very best and animal welfare friendly manner. I put this question to Mr Stevenson and his organisation "How much have you spent on the welfare of animals in transit?" This is from a livestock haulier who knows the true facts and makes sure that his company provides the very best possible service and welfare standards in Great Britain and throughout Europe.

I urge UK farmers to carry on with their support of the Farmers Ferry and to keep on with live exports and not to listen to people or organisations who have proved that they know very little about live export regulations.

Edward Gilder

Name and address supplied.

Hovis ads raise cash for charity

I wish to clarify Mrs Ellie Hobills comments about Danish Bacon appearing on Hovis bread bags (Letters, Oct 2).

This was a promotion to raise money for the Red Cross, organised by HelpAd, an organisation wholly owned by the Foundation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The money is raised by charging participants for the advertising space on the side of the product packaging such as our Hovis bread bags. Hovis donates that space at no cost for a limited period of time, normally about six weeks. We are proud to have helped raise more than £200,000 in the past four years in this way for the Red Cross.

For this latest promotion we agreed with HelpAd that bacon was a logical focus given its widespread use in sandwiches. HelpAd then approached a large UK organisation, and later Danish Bacon, to seek their participation.

Only Danish Bacon expressed an interest in the idea.

As far as we understand it, Danish Bacon observes all the required EU production standards. In addition, it has the resources available to back a major promotion. We are naturally sensitive to the importance of supporting British production generally, but on balance we saw no reason not to proceed with raising further money for the Red Cross in partnership with Danish Bacon.

Your readers may also be aware that bacon has been appearing in a Hovis TV advert featuring a girl making the perfect sandwich. We believe most pig producers will have welcomed this free support for their industry.

Peter Baker

Managing director, British Bakeries, King Edward House, PO Box 527, King Edward Court, Windsor, Berks.

ACCS is OK so stop griping

As a cereal producer who chose to join the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme, I am amazed by the duration of the monotonous self delusion coming from Mr Robertson of the FSB and others.

He keeps going on about the telephone poll which showed some 90 for ACCS and 1600 against. What he consistently fails to mention is the 5000 plus farmers (more than three times the number who bothered to ring up to register their anti-vote in the poll) who have already joined ACCS.

I cant speak for the rest of those producers, but I have joined because I want to assure the buyer, in a market in which he has plenty of choice, that I am meeting certain standards – most of which are a legal requirement anyway. If you are not doing it, I would suggest that you keep quiet and do not keep complaining about having to do it.

Whatever the opinion of the NFU or Mr Robertson, I and many other farmers see an advantage to our businesses by joining ACCS.

A Pexton

Watton Grange, Watton, Driffield, East Yorks.

Unite and fight anti-farm lobby

Jonathan Tipples is quite right in pointing out the misguided criticisms of ACCS, (Letters, Sept. 25). But did he really expect to have the monopoly on misinformation?

Is it coincidence ACCS gained currency when the outgoers scheme was on the agenda – the carrot and the stick to remove the small farmer.

His central argument seems to be that by introducing the scheme he is preventing the government from interfering, yet thanks to the efforts of Mr Robinson we already have a ruling from the EC that any scheme that places undue burdens on trade would be illegal if made compulsory.

In the week that the Ministry of Scares think-tank has come up with theoretical problems of grain mites, it is time for us to unite and fight this anti-farming propaganda and not be embroiled in this annoying distraction.

M.F. Harris

Home Farm, Guntons Road, Newborough, Peterborough.

Grain testing service silence

About a year ago there was considerable correspondence in farmers weekly about the setting up of an independent grain testing service. We have heard nothing lately.

If any of your readers are aware of such a service we would like to hear about it.

There is certainly a need for better testing. We normally send all our samples to a well known laboratory for independent testing. We find the merchants and intake stores vary enormously in their results – as much as 2% in the case of moisture for example. The merchants may downgrade for skinned grain in barley, but nobody seems able to define what constitutes skinned grain.

J J M Flower

Maurice Flower & Son, The Ridge Chilmark, Salisbury, Wilts.

Truth about farm assurance?

Can anyone tell me whether other EU countries have farm-assured schemes similar to our own?

We have recently paid our annual FABBL inspection fee. We had our farm, our animals, handling equipment, feed and animal medical storage facilities and records inspected.

Just one day after this inspection I purchased a joint of pork from our local Budgens store.

The joint bore a large label and although I could not find the country of origin, it did state in large letters Farm Assured Quality Pork saying that all the Farm Assured Quality Pork is reared to high standards of husbandry and checked at every stage, etc.

The joint was packed in such a way that until it was removed from its wrapping it was impossible to see that it was stamped in purple dye BELGIE.

Are we perhaps playing into the supermarkets hands by consistently maintaining that only British meat is farm assured so that just the sight of these words on fresh meat infers that it is produced in Britain?

Are the supermarkets hoodwinking the public?

I would be interested to learn how, if imported meat is really produced to our own high standards, it can be purchased at even lower prices than our home-produced meat at todays depressed prices.

Incidentally, while our lamb prices have been in free fall for weeks now, the same store has stocked Welsh lamb at the same consistently high price for months.

R Baker

R. H. Baker & Son, Sheep Farm, East Guldeford, Rye, East Sussex.

US Freedom to Farm collapse

Alan Gueberts latest Letter from Illinois continues to record the collapse of the US Freedom to Farm policy (Features, Sept. 25). But will the message sink in with those who have adopted this policy as their model for European agricultural reform? I refer to MAFF, to the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee and Yes, I have to say, to the NFU.

For the past year I have been writing to our union leaders, to warn of the dangers of a policy which does nothing to address overproduction.

The problem is that supply-management is out of fashion with economists, and the NFU is unwilling to go against economic correctness.

But why should we continue our craven attitude towards economists? Their big idea about a global marketplace is proving to be a total disaster, and their icons, the tiger economies, have gone down the tubes.

Malcolm Read

Broadmead Farm, West Grimstead, Salisbury, Wilts.

Pig bodies need to join forces

I have sympathy with Roger Mercers call for one pig industry organisation (Letters, Oct 2).

It is, however, difficult to reconcile the incompatible roles of political activity (BPA, BPISG and NFU) with that of industry support (MLC and LIPS). There is a compelling case for the BPA, BPISG and NFU to get together to cut costs and speak with one voice for the industry.

But, if we were able to form a new pig industry organisation, there would be no statutory levies to fund research or promotion, because it would require a new Act of Parliament, and the government would not give the time in its parliamentary schedule.

Voluntary levies are often mentioned. We cannot even get one single assurance scheme off the ground – everyone wants their own scheme and claims that theirs is better than all the others. So what hope do we have for one voluntary pig industry organisation?

Give the MLC one assurance scheme and we can start to differentiate and promote UK Pigs Ltd to its full potential. Stop trying to get one over on each other. BPA and NFU – co-operate and stop bickering.

Lets all pull together for a change and use this industry crisis as the catalyst to combine and get on with the job in hand.

But lets not throw the baby out with the bath water because we are looking for someone to kick.

David Graham

Ditchford Mill Farm, Moreton in Marsh, Glos.

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