There appear to be growing fears that British meat production will go into decline after January 1, when Common Agricultural Policy reform measures are implemented.
Northern Counties Meat Group has announced the disposal of abattoir and wholesale facilities in Bedale and Doncaster, respectively. It said it would concentrate its activities at a new processing site in Sunderland and rely on others’ slaughtering facilities in the area.
In a statement, the group said: “The company have become increasingly concerned at the likelihood of a further reduction in the availability of home-produced livestock for slaughter, due to the CAP [reforms]. They
believe the market will increasingly have to depend on meat from imported sources.”
However, National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster questioned Northern Counties Meat Group’s decision to rationalise its business now. “I’m glad they’re still operating, but I think they are mistaken to do this,” he said. “The multiples, which sell such a large proportion of fresh meat in this country, are really keen to maintain UK supplies. They want UK meat for its provenance and its security.
“We know they understand the industry is in a knot and that not enough is done about it.”
CAP reform will herald the decoupling of EU subsidies from production. This means farmers will no longer receive money based on their output, but a single farm payment that takes into account payments received in the past, farm size and location.
The move is designed to reward environmentally sound agricultural practices rather than intensive farming.
The NBA has previously warned that this means farmers will need significantly better returns from their customers if their businesses are to survive.
Richard Clarke