French sheep farmers warn against EU/NZ trade deal

A PROPOSED trade deal between New Zealand and the EU would see 38,000 tonnes lamb arrive at half the price of its competitors, French farming leaders have warned.

The president of the French National Sheep Federation, Michèle Boudoin, warned: “This agreement foresees sending 38,000 extra tonnes of sheep meat to Europe every year over the next seven years. On top of the current 114,000.

“We know how this is going to happen – our sector was globalised very early on, in the 1990s,” said Mr Boudoin. “The sheep is a very political animal. A bargaining chip. Since then, 228,000 tonnes of tax-free sheep are imported into Europe every year (with the United Kingdom at the time). Since then, the industry has been in decline. And this new agreement will make the situation even worse.”

The French sheep farmer went on to complain about the timing of NZ shipments of lamb hitting the shelves every year at Easter: “This is the most important time for our industry. Lamb is ecumenical and is eaten at Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim Easter in March.

“This means that NZ lambs can be found alongside Irish, Spanish and English lambs killed a few days earlier. The latter are sold for between €15 and €17 per kilo. €23 for the French. While the New Zealanders don’t exceed €10. Two and a half times cheaper. And this without any indication to the consumer, neither on the date of slaughter nor on the method of preservation.”

 

John Sleigh / The Scottish Farmer

 

German court rejects case against meat industry restrictions

BERLIN — Germany’s highest court said Wednesday it has thrown out complaints against a ban on the use of subcontractors in slaughterhouses that was prompted by coronavirus outbreaks early in the pandemic.

The Federal Constitutional Court said it rejected complaints by a sausage manufacturer and several temporary employment agencies against the new rules, which went into force at the beginning of last year.

They require companies to use their own work force to slaughter animals and process meat, with temporary work being restricted and phased out over a three-year period and exceptions only for companies with up to 49 employees.

The use of subcontractors, which was common in the German meat industry, often involved migrant workers living in cramped communal housing and being transported to slaughterhouses in minibuses — heightening the risk of infection when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. A major slaughterhouse outbreak prompted a regional lockdown in western Germany in mid-2020.

The federal court said the sausage company complained of inequality of treatment with other industries, while the employment agencies argued that the new rules violated their right to professional freedom. It said it rejected their cases because of a lack of sufficiently substantiated reasoning.

By Associated Press / ABC News

UK-NZ trade deal criticised by farmers

Farmers are expressing their deep concerns following the signing of a free trade deal between the UK and New Zealand on Monday (February 28).

Hailed by the government as a deal that will slash red tape for companies exporting their goods, British farmers have pointed out the UK market will be flooded with imported food, produced at lower standards.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “This deal will slash red tape, remove all tariffs and make it easier for our services companies to set up and prosper in New Zealand.

The NFU was quick to point out that UK farmers will now face “significant extra volumes of imported food – whether or not produced to our own high standards – while securing almost nothing in return for UK farmers.”

NFU President Minette Batters said: “As expected, this deal takes the same approach as the UK-Australia deal in eliminating tariffs for agricultural products, meaning that even for sensitive sectors like beef and lamb, dairy and horticulture, in time there will be no limit to the amount of goods New Zealand can export to the UK.

 

 

By Lisa Young / South West Farmer

‘Scotch premium’ for beef takes hit in processing sector

Increased supply and bottlenecks in the processing sector have contributed to the recent loss of the “Scotch premium” for beef, which traditionally saw prices for cattle born and bred in Scotland stand higher than those in the rest of the UK, it has been claimed.

With prices for cattle in the north of England currently outstripping those achieved on this side of the border on a regular basis, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) senior economist, Iain Macdonald, said that the BCMS cattle population data pointed to one of the causes,

“In October 2021, the figures signalled a sharp increase in prime cattle supply on Scottish farms, with a 5.4 per cent lift at 18-30-months compared to October 2020. By contrast, numbers were down by 1.3 per cent across England and Wales.

“It is possible that this imbalance has been generating downwards pressure on the relative price of cattle in Scotland,” said Macdonald.

“Scotland’s beef processing sector has been facing considerable labour shortages, restricting its ability to handle the available supply of cattle and potentially weakening competition for these animals.”

He said that this challenge was a reflection of the lack of suitably skilled workers, with UK immigration rules making it harder to recruit from overseas since EU exit, at a time when domestic workers had been favouring careers in other sectors such as warehousing for online retail.

“Furthermore, persistently high Covid case rates in the community and isolation requirements have added to the pressures.”

 

 

The Scotsman

AHDB challenges council’s plans to ditch meat and dairy

Oxfordshire County Council is seeking to move toward providing only plant-based food at future council meetings and events.

Vegan meals could also be made available on school lunch menus at least two days per week.

The controversial plans were passed in December as part of what the council says are efforts to tackle climate change.

In response, local farmers staged a protest outside County Hall in Oxford earlier this month, urging the council to drop the proposals.

Now the AHDB has sent a letter to councillor Liz Leffman, who is leader of the local authority, saying the move “fails to reflect the impact of livestock production here in the UK.”

 

by Farming UK

Summit held to address ‘desperate’ crisis facing pig industry

Pig farmers are in a “desperate” position – with culls of thousands of healthy animals and producers quitting the industry, they warned as a summit was held on the crisis.

Farmers demonstrated outside a meeting in York on Thursday as industry representatives met with the Environment Department (Defra) about the problems facing the pig production sector.

The National Pig Association (NPA) said the backlog of pigs ready for processing, which are having to be held on farms because of a shortage of butchers, is now estimated at more than 200,000 animals.

The industry body said it knew of 35,000 healthy pigs which have been culled on farms as a result of the backlog, although this is likely to be an underestimate, and 40 independent producers have recently left the sector.

Producers are being hit by shortages in EU workers, caused by Brexit and the pandemic, to process their pigs and by high costs of feed for animals that are having to be kept on farms for longer before being sent to abattoirs.

Healthy pigs are being culled by farmers who have run out of space, creating food waste, while producers are also being penalised for overweight animals processed late, the NPA said.

As the NPA and National Farmers’ Union (NFU) held an emergency summit with Defra, attended by representatives from major retailers and pork processors, farmers warned the meeting was vital to the industry.

 

 

 

By Emily Beament / Evening Standard

China suspends Lithuanian beef as Taiwan row grows

BEIJING/VILNIUS (Reuters) -China suspended imports of beef, dairy and beer from Lithuania this week, Lithuania’s veterinary control agency said on Thursday, amid a growing trade dispute over the Baltic nation’s relations with Taiwan.

China’s General Administration of Customs had informed the country it was halting the exports due to “lack of documentation”, the agency said in a statement.

It added that “this is first such notification we ever received, because the importing countries usually start by asking for any missing information”.

The Chinese agency said earlier on Thursday it had stopped imports of Lithuanian beef but gave no specific reason.

Relations frayed after Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital Vilnius last year, angering Beijing which regards the democratically-ruled island as its own territory.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Wednesday during a visit to Australia that nations seeking to use trade as a retaliatory measure must be reminded that “like-minded countries have tools and regulations that help withstand the coercion”.

Britain said on Monday it will join the United States and Australia in backing an EU trade case against China at the World Trade Organization over Beijing’s alleged trade curbs on Lithuania.

 

 

By Dominique Patton, Andrius Sytas / Reuters

Abattoir plans £15m expansion in Bamber Bridge

Dunbia has applied for planning permission for a new beef chilling unit and other modernisation works on its site at Walton Summit to add to the £20m it has already spent there in the past two years.

The plans will go before South Ribble’ s planning committee on Thursday, with councillors advised to give them the thumbs up.

The plant, which processes cattle and sheep, is bounded by Church Road and the M65 motorway. It is one of 12 Dunbia sites in the UK and one of the biggest employers in the area.

The Northern Ireland based company says this latest scheme is the third phase of a £35m modernisation and rationalisation programme “giving security to the existing 730 jobs at Dunbia.”

A report to the planning committee adds: “Dunbia has invested over £20m in the last two years on this site. The scheme is part of that commitment and adds another £15m in investment.

“This investment secures existing jobs on the site and will create a further 100-plus construction jobs that may arise from this phase on investment (over 12 months).”

The work will involve erecting the new beef chiller unit, adding new lairage buildings for animals to be rested before slaughter, adding an extension to another building on the site and raising the roof on an existing refrigeration unit following the demolition of a storage shed and existing lairage spaces.

 

 

By Brian Ellis / Lancashire Evening Post

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