01 June 1998
UK forces to be fed British beef
By Boyd Champness
BRITISH servicemen and women will be fed British beef again, following a victory by Government ministers over Brussels.
John Spellar, junior defence minister, announced in the House of Commons today (Monday) that the European Commission had agreed to release intervention stocks of locally-produced beef for the armed forces.
Mr Spellar said the move would substantially increase the proportion of British beef that the armed forces could buy. However, the agreement will not extend to troops and staff posted at overseas bases, because of the beef export ban.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said one of the major problems in the past was that the MoD specified frozen beef, while the local industry had geared itself towards supplying either fresh or chilled beef.
“But obviously, cold-store intervention beef is already frozen, so thats one way of getting around the problem,” he said.
MoD figures show that only 30% of the departments beef requirements are currently sourced from the UK, while the other 70% comes from Australia (41%), Uruguay (21%) and New Zealand (8%). The MoD spends approximately £6.7 million a year on beef.
The MoD spokesman said the department was obliged to purchase all its food requirements on a “value for money” basis – meaning that he could not guarantee that the department would source all requirements from the UK. However, he said it paved the way for larger quantities to be purchased.
A Meat and Livestock spokesman said he understood that1000 tonnes of British beef would be initially taken out of intervention to be used by the forces.
Making his announcement in the Commons, Mr Spellar said: “I greatly value the relationship that the armed forces have with the agricultural community. We have been seeking, together with farmers representatives, MAFF and our contractor, ways in which we can increase the proportion of British beef used by the armed forces.”