Government views of the meat industry post-decoupling have been slammed as idealist visions by those in the industry.
Paul Cheale, director of Cheale Meats, said the views of Sir Don Curry and Sir Brian Bender, permanent secretary with DEFRA, of the meat sector’s future “did not pay enough attention to the actual realities of the commercial world”.
Cheales’ attack followed comments made by Sir Don and Sir Brian at the British Meat Processors’ Association’s annual conference last week.
Sir Don said the beef and lamb sectors should learn from the experiences of the already decoupled pig and poultry sectors.
He also called on the industry to increase spending on
research and development, which he said had declined in recent years.
However, Cheale claimed producers were simply being offered a niche market.
“I don’t see how you can operate a regime that is actually reducing the amount of live stock availability in this country, if the beef and lamb sectors go the way of the pig sector. The national kill was 270,000 to 300,000; it’s now down to 130,000. What you’re offering us is a small niche market.”
Sir Brian denied Cheale’s claims that the government did not want a livestock sector: “The government does wish there to be a profitable industry and wants to set the framework where this can happen. The best way to do that is to prevent producers from being sheltered from the market.”
Sir Don added: “To continue to directly subsidise food production is not sustainable policy. What will sustain our production is consumer demand and we need to be doing a much better job at communicating to consumers.”
He also called on the industry not to be negative about the potential effects of Common Agricultural Policy reform.
“The home market for beef is robust. We need to take the opportunity to encourage ongoing commitment rather than talking down the prospects for beef and assume a contraction of production.”
Ed Bedington