Call to Protect Local Abattoirs

WALES - The Farmers’ Union of Wales has called on Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones to explore all possible options to reduce the threat to small abattoirs from plans to increase inspection charges.
calendar icon 26 March 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

The call comes after concerns were raised at the FUW’s Grand Council that proposed changes to the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) charges could lead to the closure of most Welsh abattoirs.

The letter to the minister is the latest of a number of representations made by the FUW since being first consulted on the plans in the autumn of 2004 and developments since then have rung alarm bells across rural Wales.

"The proposed changes could severely threaten the viability of the majority of Welsh slaughterhouses."
FUW president Gareth Vaughan

Due to the high and growing costs of complying with EC rules that regulate the wholesale meat sector, the Food Standards Agency wants to see the MHS moving towards a "full cost recovery" plan that will relieve the government from paying for inspections carried out to "protect public health".

FUW president Gareth Vaughan said: "The proposed changes will see the introduction of a new hourly charging system for meat hygiene controls that could severely threaten the viability of the majority of Welsh slaughterhouses.

"At present small abattoirs are charged an average amount for each animal inspected, but if an hourly fee is introduced it could cost as much as £90/hour if a vet is employed." According to the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (Aims), if the proposed "full cost recovery" plan is introduced charges for small abattoirs could increase by about 800 per cent.

In reality, this means charges for a typical small abattoir could rise from £10,000 to an inconceivable £77,500 a year.

"It beggars belief that at a time when public demand and government support for locally slaughtered produce is growing that the government’s own cost cutting agenda could jeopardise the existence of a vital part of the local food chain.

"If we are to meet the demand for lower food miles, small abattoirs are an essential link in the food chain. And a chain is only as strong as its weakest link," added Mr Vaughan.

The proposed changes will also have an adverse impact on farm businesses and all those enterprises that rely on small and medium slaughterhouses.

The FUW recently met MHS chairman Dr Ian Reynolds to discuss the matter. At the meeting the union stressed that more must be done to protect small and medium sized slaughterhouses from the full impact of the changes that seem likely to be brought in over the next few years.

"The future of the 35 slaughterhouses in Wales lie firmly in the government’s hands. One thing is for sure: without these slaughterhouses farmers will be unable to deliver what the public increasingly wants - locally grown and processed food," said Mr Vaughan.
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