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Union Calls for Brexit and LFA Certainty at Lairg Sale

“The EU wants our lamb and we want to sell it to them,” says LFA Chairman

NFU Scotland has used the iconic annual lamb sale at Lairg – one of the biggest sales of sheep in Europe - to call on politicians to deliver certainty to the nation’s hill farmers and crofters.

The prospect of leaving Europe in a ‘no deal’ Brexit has huge implications for a sheep sector that is very reliant on an export market to Europe but, under ‘no deal’ faces tariffs of up to 40 percent.  The Union also called on Scottish Government to urgently plug the funding gap in the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) – a critical scheme for hill farmers and crofters.

Speaking from Lairg, where 18,500 North Country Cheviot lambs are entered into the sale, NFU Scotland’s LFA committee chairman Robert Macdonald, a hill farmer from Grantown on Spey said: “For many of the farmers and crofters selling here today, this is the most important day of the year.  

“For them, the glass is still half-full.  There is a lot of grass about and there is always a strong demand for the high quality, high health lambs at this sale. However, the lambs bought here today are to be finished on farms the length and breadth of the UK and will not be ready for market until after our scheduled exit from Europe.  

“The terms of that exit are crucial.  With the pound at current levels, Scottish lamb exports to Europe are very competitive.  The EU wants our lamb, and we want to sell it to them.  But that competitive position would be seriously undermined were huge tariffs to be placed on the export trade in the event of a no deal.

“With around a third of Scottish lamb exported, the imposition of 40 percent tariffs in the event of a no deal would have a huge impact on the industry.

“Cash flows at this difficult and uncertain time are important to all businesses and the Scottish Government’s announcement that Basic Payment Scheme loans will be offered again this autumn, at a higher rate of 95 percent, will give a serious boost to the whole rural economy in October.

“However, for hill farmers and crofters, many of whom are more reliant on the LFA scheme for support, the critical funding gap that remains in the scheme is a huge concern.

“As things stand, LFA payments for the 2019 scheme, due in Spring 2020, are to fall to 80 percent of their LFASS 2018 levels – reducing the LFASS budget of £65 million by some £13 million.  By the LFASS 2020 scheme year, the cut in funding would be 60 percent from 2018 levels.

“Scottish Government has stated in parliament that its intention is to effectively reinstate funding levels to 100 per cent of LFASS.  Hill farmers and crofters need for that commitment to be confirmed as a matter of urgency.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006


Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 115/19


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