New red meat levy system proposal gets a welcome

NEW proposals for a change to the current GB red meat levy system put before MPs by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) have been welcomed by the FUW. Under the current system, levies collected from farmers and processors in countries in which animals are slaughtered are paid to those countries’ meat promotion bodies – HCC in Wales; Quality Meat Scotland in Scotland; and the English Beef and Lamb Executive and British Pig Executive in England. “There can be no doubt that the inequity in the current red meat levy distribution system has held us back to the detriment of Welsh farmers, particularly over recent years, and we have been calling for a fairer system to be introduced for more than a decade,” said FUW president Glyn Roberts. It is estimated that the closure of the Vion plant at Gaerwen on Anglesey in 2013 led to a drop of around £500,000 in HCC’s red meat levy funding while the closure of a pork processing facility in Scotland in 2012 had a similarly detrimental impact on Quality Meat Scotland as more animals were transported to England. Calculations suggest that more than £1 million in additional funding could potentially be transferred to HCC if the proposed system is adopted. “Currently HCC’s levy funding does not come close to reflecting the number of animals born and raised in Wales, a problem which has got much worse since the closure of the Gaerwen slaughterhouse which has led to many more Welsh animals being slaughtered in England,” Mr Roberts added. There is currently no legal mechanism by which AHDB can redistribute the levy collected for an animal born and raised in Wales but slaughtered in England. Under the new proposals, the levy obtained would be divided between different countries depending on where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The information for this distribution of monies would come from animal movement databases and other such sources. The FUW hopes the proposals will be fully considered in order to ensure a more flexible and fairer distribution of collected levies. If ministers agreed to implement the new mechanism, it would involve some redistribution of the producer element of the levy, with no extra work or cost for producers or abattoirs. No change has been proposed to the processor element of the levy system. Before any changes could be made a legislative process and government consultations with the industry across the country would need to be completed. “We understand that that it is unlikely that any changes will come into force before April 2017, but it is a step in the right direction,” said Mr Roberts. “The current levy distribution system is not fit for purpose and Welsh farmers are suffering as a result. “The advent of EID and other technology means an equitable system should now be easier than ever to implement.” The FUW further understands the levy boards have also agreed to look at new ways of working in partnership on activities such as supporting export market access work in countries where there is potential to sell pig meat, sheep meat and beef from across Britain.

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