Farming Minister George Eustice has denied the Government is planning to spend £500m buying beef and lamb at predetermined prices to support farmers in a no-deal Brexit.
Last week, national newspapers and broadcasters reported that Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning in his new post at the Cabinet Office, was finalising the plans, but Mr Eustice has rejected the claims.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian, the Minister said: “The £500m figure which I have seen in the media is not one I recognise.
“We do not know where that has come from. We have not placed any cap on the type of support and interventions we may need to make as a Government.
“It is very hard at the moment to predict exactly what the cost will be, because when it comes to agricultural commodities such as lamb, they are highly dependent on the prevailing exchange rate, so the rate of sterling to the euro will have quite a big bearing on how much intervention would be required.”
Mr Eustice also denied the Government was looking to set up an intervention buying scheme of the kind described in media reports, pointing out huge amounts of cold storage capacity would be needed.
“We think a better way is to help supplement farmers’ incomes rather than take lamb out of the market and put it into storage,” he said.
“What we are doing is working up a range of options, predominantly around headage payments, specifically in the sheep sector.
“That could be a headage payment on breeding ewes, or it could be a slaughterhouse premium on lambs at the point of slaughter.
“We have not made any final decisions, but we are doing a lot of contingency preparations.”