EU proposals 'threaten local produce'

Jan 21 2003

Andrew Clarke, The Western Mail - The National Newspaper Of Wales


RURAL business owners have warned that controversial EU legislation would destroy smaller abattoirs - and seriously damage a popular campaign aimed at persuading people to "buy local" as a desperately-needed boost for re-building rural prosperity.

Proposals by Brussels to demand full recovery of meat hygiene inspection charges and to enforce new blood disposal measures, would result in a massive and unbearable leap in costs for many slaughterhouses and cutting plants, says the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

This would spark a chain reaction which would destroy jobs and incomes across the meat and livestock industry as well as the wider rural economy.

Mid-Wales CLA regional director Julian Salmon said, "These proposed EU regulations would have disastrous consequences if they are implemented, and so must be stopped."

The CLA has also warned that the extinction of local abattoirs would be a disastrous blow to its "Think Local, Buy Local, Act Local" campaign. This had attracted widespread support for its target of encouraging rural-dwell-ers to buy locally-produced and processed foods as a method of breathing new commercial life into local enterprises.

One set of proposed EU regulations are the Official Feed and Food Controls. They propose full recovery from the industry of all meat inspection costs. In the UK, this would include the cost of the Meat Hygiene Service and BSE measures.

Charges for all plants would increase substantially. If full cost recovery were applied on a plant-by-plant basis, smaller plants could see the cost per animal increase from around £3 to a staggering £100, while for large plants this would mean an increase from £2-£3 to £10 per animal.

The Animal By-Products Regulation - scheduled for introduction in April 2003 - would require all abattoirs to collect and store blood for later disposal.

While some large abattoirs already collect and dispose of blood through renderers, many do not, and the by-product is disposed of with the approval of water companies via the sewage system or on to land. Under the new arrangements, smaller abattoirs would have to invest in refrigerated storage tanks. As well as the expense, this could give rise to planning issues. Disposal by this means would substantially increase long-distance lorry journeys, creating additional emissions and potential hazards.

Mr Salmon said, "These regulations aim to achieve the full recovery from the industry of all meat inspection costs and to introduce changes to the arrangements for disposal of blood by-products.

"Their impact would spell the end of the line for the UK's small and medium-sized abattoirs, while the large ones would become less competitive against foreign competitors.

"The extent of the knock-on effects, on the rural economy and beyond, is vividly demonstrated by the diversity of the 150 organisations that have united in opposition to the EU proposals.

"Farming and food organisations, environmental, animal welfare, women's groups, business and tourism groups, academic institutions and church leaders have all come together to express their concern.

"The Government must stand firm in fighting for the survival of a diverse industry.

"We cannot afford to lose our smaller local abattoirs and cutting plants. They currently process 49% of UK livestock and are needed to deal with specialist and local meats, to provide jobs in rural communities and to minimise the distances travelled by animals."

Mr Salmon added, "The impact of the proposed EU regulations would also be disastrous for the CLA's 'Think Local, Buy Local, Act Local' campaign.

"It has won the approval of the Meat and Livestock Commission, the Welsh Development Agency, MPs and media commentators.

"But local farmers cannot add value to their livestock, and local meat processors, butchers and farmers' markets cannot play their parts in the locally-produced supply chain if there are no local abattoirs."