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Union Condemns MHS Cost Recovery Plans

NFU Scotland has condemned Food Standards Agency (FSA) proposals to pass a £21 million bill for meat inspection charges onto the UK farming industry.  The Union believes there can be no further discussion on this topic until such times as delivery of meat inspection is radically reformed and thought given to a Scottish service.

The Union was responding to a consultation from the FSA that outlined how the agency planned to claw back the proportion of the total bill currently paid by the public purse for the cost of providing official vet and meat inspection controls in abattoirs.  This amounts to around £32 million UK-wide with an impact assessment suggesting that £21 million of this bill would fall to producers with the remainder expected to be picked up by the abattoir and meat processing sector.

In responding to the FSA consultation, NFU Scotland’s Livestock Policy Manager, Penny Johnston said:

"We remain resolutely opposed to the FSA's suggestion of full cost recovery for meat hygiene inspections and are convinced that the threat of heaping an addition £32 million onto our meat and livestock industries is unjustifiable and unaffordable.

“There is no way the current livestock and abattoir sector can absorb the level of costs being proposed by the FSA without casualties in the meat and farming industry.  Our fear, as livestock producers, is that much of that additional cost will simply pass all the way down to the farm gate with little opportunity to recoup it from the end price for our stock. For all involved in meat production, this winter has seen the costs of production escalate, and recovering those costs from the marketplace has been difficult enough without the FSA throwing an additional bill for meat inspection charges at farmers.

"On a matter of principle, meat hygiene is a vital cog in delivering food safety assurances to the general public.  Given the huge public benefit generated, there is every reason to expect part of that cost to be picked up by the public purse.

"However, the public have a right to expect value for money - something that the existing service is failing to deliver.  We believe no further discussion on cost recovery should take place without clear progress being made by the FSA in addressing the large-scale inefficiencies that exist within the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) and greater flexibility permitted to meat plants to generate cost savings.  If the plants are paying for the service, they must be allowed a greater say in how the controls are delivered within their plant.

"NFU Scotland would also like to further explore if that service can be delivered on a Scottish-basis.  There is merit in looking at having an inspection system in place in Scotland that meets the requirements of Scottish plants where they have greater freedom to develop their own inspection arrangements including the use of local veterinary and animal health services. Unless the MHS can do more to cut out unnecessary costs, it simply should not pass those costs onto industry without examining an alternative delivery model for Scotland.

Notes to editors

  • The Union was responding to the FSA document: “Consultation on a new approach to charges for official controls on meat: delivering efficiency and reform.”  A copy of the NFU Scotland submission is available on request.

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 15/11


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