The SNP has said it is ‘exasperated’ by the UK Government’s failure to commit to having a red meat levy repatriation scheme up and running by April next year.
Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has estimated the Scottish red meat industry loses about £2 million a year because levies are collected at the point of slaughter in England, while Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) calculated Wales misses out on more than £1m.
A clause in the new Agriculture Bill will allow the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in England to collect the levy, then pay a certain amount back to QMS or HCC, but there is currently no proposed timeframe for this redistribution scheme to be established.
During a March 3 session of the Public Bill Committee set up to scrutinise the Agriculture Bill, Deirdre Brock, the SNP’s farming spokesperson in Westminster, called on Farming Minister Victoria Prentis to accept an amendment to the legislation which would require the new programme to be implemented in the next 12 months.
But the Minister rejected the proposed change, saying the Government would need time to consult on the practicalities of the scheme, and suggested in the meantime, QMS and HCC would be able to benefit from a £2m interim marketing and research fund financed by AHDB.
Ms Brock said: “The red meat levy fiasco has gone on for more than a decade. The levy boards came up with a workable solution back in 2015 and we finally got the UK Government to agree to do something about it when it first tried to pass the Agriculture Bill last year, and that agreement is still in the new Bill.
“I asked Victoria Prentis to agree to make sure the new scheme would be in place by April 2021, giving Defra more than a year to get it running, but she refused.
“The lack of will to get this sorted and give Scottish farmers the benefits of their levy cash is frustrating and I am exasperated by the lack of movement.
“It is not good enough. If Defra has a problem with the agreement it has reached it should be honest and let us know what the problem is. If there is no problem, then I cannot see the difficulty in just getting on with implementing it.”