Union Slams FSA Proposal for Meat Inspection Charge

SCOTLAND, UK - NFU Scotland had branded the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) proposals for a nine per cent hike in meat inspection charges at abattoirs as inappropriate, ill judged and unaffordable to Scotland’s meat and livestock sector.
calendar icon 27 March 2009
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The Union’s comments come in its response to an FSA consultation on proposed changes to the charges for official meat controls carried out in Scottish abattoirs and due to come into force from 29 June 2009. The preferred option put forward by the FSA is to increase meat inspection charges in June this year by a massive nine per cent. The lowest cost option proposed by the FSA would still see charges increase by four per cent

"During the current financial downturn plants are more vulnerable than ever."
NFU Scotland’s Vice-President, Nigel Miller

NFUS is adamant that these proposals were developed in a different economic climate. The increased charges were based on an inflation figure that is now vastly inaccurate. In addition, retailer pressure on the meat sector to provide low cost products during this time of recession, coupled with the still high costs of primary production, places processors in an impossible situation where increases simply are not affordable. Even the lowest proposed increase of 4 per cent could have a severe impact on the viability of meat plants and the production chain as a whole with the FSA’s ‘preferred’ option of 9 per cent being totally unrealistic.

NFU Scotland’s Vice-President, Nigel Miller said:

“Scotland’s abattoirs have been under pressure for a long time, with many plants ceasing trading over the years as a result of increased regulation and costs of compliance. During the current financial downturn plants are more vulnerable than ever. There is a need to preserve our remaining abattoir base and, therefore, support the Scottish Government’s own ambitions for a successful food sector. This will require the deferral of such swingeing charges.

“That makes this consultation entirely inappropriate at this time. The proposed increases to charges were developed in a totally different economic climate and this consultation should have been withdrawn by the FSA Board and reconsidered in the light of recent economic developments and the need to preserve a healthy livestock production base and meat processing sector.

“The proposed charging increases, first put forward in 2008, now appear ill judged and are simply not affordable for the industry. To push ahead with this proposal risks further damaging the important but shrinking meat processing sector in Scotland. It will have a negative impact on Scotland’s livestock farmers as costs inevitably get passed down the chain and will ultimately impact on the wider Scottish economy.

“The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), as operated by the FSA, is currently undergoing a restructuring process and, whilst we recognise that significant savings have already been achieved, there is still a long way to go. Until the MHS has been fully transformed and can be considered efficient, effective and value for money it seems inappropriate for the FSA to consider transferring these costs in full onto industry.

“Whilst the livestock industry recognises the need for meat hygiene controls to protect public health and provide consumer confidence in meat products, these controls should be based on proportionate risk assessments and up to date scientific evidence to show their necessity. Where there is no evidence to show any risk, or where the risk is so small to be almost negligible then it seems unreasonable for the FSA to expect meat industry to bear the full cost of theoretical or minimal risks to human health.”

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