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NFUS Slams Meat Inspection Cost Recovery Plans

by 5m Editor
12 November 2010, at 9:37a.m.

SCOTLAND, UK - Farmers would bear the brunt of FSA proposals for recovering the costs of meat plant inspections, says the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS).

Scotland's livestock farmers could face a huge hike in their costs if Food Standards Agency plans to pass a £21 million bill for meat inspection charges onto the UK farming industry are delivered.

The FSA proposals, announced on 11 November, outline how it plans to claw back the proportion of the total bill currently paid by the public purse for the cost of providing official vet and meat inspection controls in abattoirs. This amounts to around £32 million UK-wide with an impact assessment suggesting that £21 million of this bill would fall to producers with the remainder expected to be picked up by the abattoir and meat processing sector.

The sudden announcement by the FSA of the new proposals has undermined ongoing stakeholder discussions around this topic and could, by 2012, bring huge pressure on livestock producers at a time when returns, particularly on beef, are falling.

NFU Scotland Vice-President, Nigel Miller, a representative on the UK-wide advisory group discussing the delivery of official controls in abattoirs said: "This FSA proposal on cost-recovery is deeply unhelpful and totally undermines its own consultation process with stakeholders. The opportunity to take the work of stakeholder groups into consideration appears to have been abandoned in mid-stream, extinguishing trust and the positive progress such groups have made.

"There is no way the current livestock and abattoir sector can absorb the level of costs being proposed by the FSA without casualties in the meat industry. These are significant sums of money that will threaten the viability of processors and also put pressure on beef prices after a brutal summer where many finishers have suffered significant losses. For all involved in meat production, this winter has also seen the costs of production escalate, and recovering those costs from the marketplace has proven difficult enough without the FSA throwing an additional bill for meat inspection charges at farmers.

"NFU Scotland will reject the proposals and point out that it is perfectly reasonable for taxpayer funding to continue to support the cost of delivering food safety in a fair and transparent manner. In addition, there seems to have been no real attempt to improve the efficiency of these operations; simply a hasty attempt to dump over-inflated costs onto industry.

"It is against that context, that we need to examine what system is right for Scotland. The delivery of meat controls and inspections can be different north of the border so Government, its agencies and industry need to stop and think before presuming we should and could just swallow our share of a bloated system."

Further Reading

- You can find out more about the FSA proposal by clicking here.