Sheepmeat store move
UK and Irish farmers unions are seeking an EU private storage aid scheme to take sheepmeat off the market.
But there is little enthusiasm for the idea in the meat trade and the government blames cash losses on poor commercial judgment.
Acting Scottish NFU president George Lyon estimated that at least 500,000 hoggets would have to be taken off the market to have an effect on prices and stop the carryover from last years lambing undermining new season prices. It would also allow hoggets to be taken off the market before their permanent teeth appeared and they became subject to specified risk material (SRM) regulations.
The unions insist that the current disastrous sheep prices meet the criteria for introducing the storage scheme.
The go-ahead must come from the EUs sheep management committee, but national governments must first submit a proposal. And the attitude of UK farm ministers at the moment is that feeders paid too much for store lambs last autumn and have only themselves to blame for the current depression.
Even if a private storage scheme was introduced, it would rely on tenders from meat companies. They would be compensated for storing the product.
Raymond Wight, managing director of abattoir group Scotch Premier, said he could see no profit in such a scheme.
"Private aid works when you can sell the meat on a rising market. But it is difficult to forecast any rise in the market for last years lambs at the moment. I think it will be better if we market our way through this surplus." *