AHDB to host US lamb importers visit to the UK

Five of America’s most respected red meat importers will join AHDB on a five-day mission next week to explore opportunities for UK lamb, ahead of the first commercial exports.

On Sunday, a delegation of importers and processors from the eastern region of the US, will be arriving in London to take part in a busy programme of events, which includes a visit to the National Sheep Association Show in Malvern.

The visit has been organised by AHDB in a bid to connect key importers from the US with lamb exporters, as well as showcasing the varied breeds and rich history of farming in the UK, and the high quality and taste of our products.

The delegation includes one of the most respected distributors in the eastern half of the US – delivering to 27 states and exporting to Latin America, as well as an importer which supplies hundreds of restaurants, retailers, hotels, universities and caterers throughout Virginia, Washington and Maryland.

One of the top importers and exporters of meat and seafood will also be taking part in the mission, alongside two leading lamb buyers.

AHDB Senior Export Manager Susana Morris said: “The US is an important market for our lamb exports, with AHDB estimating it to be worth £37 million in the first five years of trade. Currently, we are working with government on the final approval process, which once completed will see lamb exported to the US for the first time in 20 years.

 

AHDB

Plans for new Scotbeef abattoir remain on hold

Plans to build a new abattoir in the north-east of Scotland will remain on hold, Scotbeef Inverurie has confirmed in its latest accounts.

The company – which is jointly owned by Scotland’s largest red meat processor JW Galloway and north-east farmers’ co-operative ANM Group – has long been planning to build a new abattoir on land at ANM’s Thainstone Business Park near Inverurie.

However, the plans were put on hold due to the “unknown impact” of Covid-19 and Brexit on the company’s marketplace.

In its latest accounts, which cover the year to February 28, 2021, JW Galloway and Scotbeef Inverurie managing director Robbie Galloway said: “In light of the continued uncertainty posed by further Covid-19 outbreaks, the directors have decided to keep the project in its current status, and the group will look to restart it when the economic outlook is more certain.”

The accounts reveal a drop in both turnover and pre-tax profits during the year.

Turnover was down slightly to £68.25 million, from £68.28m the year before, while pre-tax profits were down 48% to £350,000.

 

By Gemma Mackie / The Press and Journal

Brechin abattoir takeover boosts pig sector confidence.

The cloud of uncertainty hanging over the future of Scottish pig processing has been lifted following the purchase of Brechin abattoir by Browns Food Group.

The specialist pig slaughterhouse, which employs around 100 staff, has been owned by Quality Pork Ltd (QPL), in a close collaboration between the two farmer cooperatives, Scottish Pig Producers (SPP) and Scotlean, together with Pilgrim’s Pride UK.

However, Pilgrim’s, which has been the sole customer for the pigmeat processed at Brechin, gave notice last year that the arrangement was “unsustainable” following a downturn in the pig industry and the abattoir’s loss of a valuable Chinese export licence after an outbreak of Covid at the plant.

That licence has not been reinstated by China despite the plant getting the all-clear by public health authorities a few weeks after the outbreak, and it is generally believed this is related to ongoing political tensions between China and the UK.

In a statement Dumfriesshire-based Browns said: “This is an exciting new development for both companies which will ensure a promising future for Scottish pork while supporting the existing established markets.”

SPP chief executive Andy McGowan said the new arrangement would mean business as usual for Scottish pig farmers who are currently supplying the plant with around 4000 pigs per week.

“The announcement lifts the question marks surrounding the future of the site  and brings about simplicity,” he said.

 

 

 

Defra agrees to urgent summit with pig sector as crisis deepens

The government has agreed to convene an emergency summit of the entire pig supply chain as the sector’s crisis deepens.

Defra farming minister Victoria Prentis today agreed to the joint National Pig Association (NPA) and NFU request for a roundtable event amid a worsening crisis.

It comes as the pig backlog is now estimated to be well in excess of 170,000 due to a lack of butchers in pork processing plants, as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.

Tens of thousands of healthy pigs have been culled on farms across the country by increasingly desperate producers who have run out of space.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer and NFU president Minette Batters wrote to Defra last week, calling for it to “arrange a summit of the entire pig supply chain so that we can agree a plan to get these pigs off farms and onto people’s plates”.

Responding, Mrs Prentis agreed that “convening a roundtable bringing together producers, processors, and retailers to discuss the ongoing challenges faced by the sector would be helpful”. The date will be arranged ‘shortly’.

She acknowledged that recruitment of butchers via the temporary visa route, which closed to applications on 31 December, had ‘taken longer than initially expected’.

But she said that processors could still recruit butchers via the UK’s new points-based immigration system, which was introduced last month.

The Defra minister also acknowledged that uptake of both the Private Storage Aid (PSA)and Slaughter Incentive Payment (SIP) schemes had been lower than anticipated.

 

 

 

by Farming UK

Eustice puts pig crisis onus on processors

Defra Secretary George Eustice has told a committee of MPs that the Government is ‘limited’ in what it can do to support pig producers during their time of crisis.

Instead, Mr Eustice put the onus very much on pork processors to do more to increase their throughput and reduce the backlog on farms, at one point appearing to suggest this should include paying farmers less to speed up the process of getting pigs through plants.

However, while he offered little prospect of any short-term Government help for the industry, Mr Eustice reiterated that Defra is looking to introduce new legislation in the future to ensure a more functional and fairer pig supply chain.

Mr Eustice was questioned on the pig crisis by Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee chairman Neil Parish and other MPs at the end of a long and wide-ranging session on Tuesday covering his and Defra’s work.

‘Sheer waste of food’

Mr Parish quoted a Yorkshire pig farmer, who had told him pigs are being culled on her farm ‘as we speak’, as the impact of pigs being held on farm for longer due to processing delays takes its toll. “There are animal welfare issues of this and it’s a sheer waste of food,” Mr Parish said, before asking the Defra Secretary what more could be done to get pigs ‘properly processed and the animal welfare issues solved’.

Mr Eustice acknowledged that the situation was ‘quite difficult’, but went on to explain how the industry’s ‘asks’ that the Government had delivered in its October support package had not been utilised by processors.

The ‘bespoke’ temporary visa scheme for pigs that was delivered despite being a departure from Government policy ‘hasn’t been used as much as we’d hoped’, he said. “There was a provision for about 800, but I think it will be in the low hundreds for the numbers that they actually bring in under that scheme.

“Some of the processors have used the skilled route to bring some butchers in from some areas, but they’ve not they’ve not been recruiting in the way we thought they might, given the labour shortage was one of the key issues they kept highlighting.

 

Alistair Driver / Pig World

Lamb exports to the EU will return to pre-Brexit levels, says Eustice

Defra Secretary George Eustice has claimed lamb exports to the EU will return to pre-Brexit levels in future.

British sheepmeat exports to the bloc have fallen by 25 per cent since the UK left the EU, with industry leaders blaming the sharp drop on non-tariff barriers such as paperwork and checks.

Last year, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) warned UK meat exporters were having to spend an extra £1,000 to send a lorry through a port.

Smaller exporters, in particular, have struggled to handle the 29 different processes required to send meat to the continent.

Giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee this week (February 1), Mr Eustice said he expected the trade to bounce back over the coming years.

“Things like salmon have actually seen an increase in their exports since we have left the European Union, driven by high demand for premium product,” he told the MPs.

“I think we will see a similar situation on our other major agricultural exports like lamb. There will be some impact because of the additional export processes which are required and the costs associated with that, but the big exports we rely on will resume just as Scottish salmon already has.”

But National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker questioned whether this would be the case.

“[Trade] will never return to the way it used to be, and seeing the effect border control posts and export health certificate controls are having on exporters, I do not see our volumes to the EU returning to where they were,” he said.

 

 

 

By Abi Kay  / Farmers Guardian

 

Reduced abattoir throughputs may impact future trading patterns

Reduced throughputs at UK abattoirs will have a knock-on impact on future trading patterns, industry chiefs have warned. 

It comes as tight supplies of cattle and sheep have supported the continuing trend of above-average market prices into the first month of 2022.

But last year saw cattle throughputs reach their lowest level since 2015 at 2.7 million head, a 5.7 per cent drop on 2020 and 4.3 per cent below the five year average, according to Defra figures.

Glesni Phillips, data analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), said the decrease in cattle throughput at UK abattoirs last year was not unexpected.

“Increased numbers were processed during 2020 and this led to fewer cattle on the ground,” she said.

“This was especially true for adult cattle which saw throughput fall by almost 6 per cent on the year.”

 

 

Hannah Binns / Farmers Guardian

Small abattoirs likely to benefit from public funding – Defra official

Speaking at an Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) event on January 7, the department’s head of agricultural sectors, John Powell, said he was hopeful they would find a way to ensure small abattoirs can access cash through the Farming Investment Fund, which provides grants to improve productivity and secure environmental benefits.

He also pointed out that Defra was funding a farmer-led mobile abattoir pilot project through the rural development programme, which if successful, will be rolled out further and supported by public money.

Mr Powell said: “[One] key funding mechanism is Defra’s Farming Investment Fund, which went live last year.

“We did submit a list of potential items with the Abattoir Sector Group which might be eligible for funding, that unfortunately did not make the very competitive first round, but a second round is planned for 2022 and we are actively exploring what opportunities there are to support producers.

“This could and is likely to provide support to producers wanting to process and add value to their products. I hope we can find ways of building small abattoirs into proposals which would be able to achieve that aim.”

His comments came just a day after the Defra Secretary, George Eustice, appeared to downplay the idea of using taxpayer cash to support the abattoir network – for a second time.

 

 

by Abi Kay / Farmers Guardian

 

 

Eustice refuses to offer support for local abattoir network

Defra Secretary George Eustice has been accused of ‘missing the point’ on slaughterhouse investment, after he suggested no local abattoir network policy was needed to accommodate Government plans for shorter livestock journeys.

Last week, the Government launched an eight-week consultation on improving animal welfare in transport, which included proposals to cut maximum journey times and ban live exports.

But on Tuesday (November 8), Mr Eustice refused to offer much-needed support for smaller abattoirs in order to meet these aims.

Speaking to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, he suggested supermarkets which stipulate animals must be sent to a particular slaughterhouse would need to change their supply chain policies in order to ‘accommodate the law’, but added: “We have looked at where all the slaughterhouses are, species by species, and then considered hypothetically how quickly farms in many different parts of the country could get animals to the slaughterhouse.

 

by Abi Kay

‘Major change’: AHDB unveils 2021-2026 strategy

The 2021-2026 strategy [PDF] lays out AHDB’s plans for the next five years as it embarks on a ‘major change’ to improve value for levy payers.

A ballot will be held every five years on the future of the levy, as AHDB says it is ‘committed’ make the organisation accountable to farmers and growers.

The detail around the ballot process is currently under discussion with Defra, which is legally responsible for it.

A new online service will be also launched for levy payers to leave feedback, review AHDB’s performance and talk to technical specialists.

The levy board says it will work with horticulture and potato growers and the supply chain to design a ‘modern levy system’.

 

FarmingUK