Wales is being short-changed by the ’unfair’ meat levy collection system which is seriously affecting the promotion of Welsh Lamb, according to Farmers Union of Wales leaders.
That is what they told representatives from two of the country’s top meat processing companies - Dunbia’s senior livestock buyer Wyn Williams and Peter Morris, industry development manager at the 2 Sisters Food Group - at a Welshpool livestock market meeting called to discuss low lamb prices and other industry frustrations.
The union’s Montgomeryshire county chairman Mark Williams, who chaired the meeting, said the concerns centred on the iniquity of the meat levy system.
“The current set-up means a large proportion of Welsh levy payments end up across the border in England,” he said.
“Marketing Welsh produce is critical to farmgate prices and farm incomes, and there is huge anger at the way in which levy money paid on Welsh animals is being taken away from us.”
Under the current system levy money collected from farmers and processors stays in the country in which animals are slaughtered rather than where they are reared.
That means that as slaughter capacity in Wales has fallen, so has the levy money received by Hybu Cig Cymru, the Wales-based red meat promotion body.
It is estimated that closure of the Vion plant at Gaerwen in 2013 alone saw HCC’s red meat levy funding drop by around £500,000 in one fell swoop.
The closure of a pork processing facility in Scotland in 2012 had a similarly detrimental impact on Quality Meat Scotland.
“HCC’s levy funding does not come close to reflecting the number of animals born and raised in Wales,” added Mr Williams.
FUW president, Glyn Roberts, said the union had been lobbying for fairer levy distribution for a decade.
While there were many other factors affecting the lamb price that were beyond the industry’s control, such as the value of sterling, there were others that could be improved, he added.
Better meat product development was needed and the supply chain had to address the imbalance in demand for different cuts.
“We also need to see changes to the regulations on carcase splitting which is scientifically unjustified and severely undermines the prices we receive.”
Widespread frustration was also expressed at the meeting over the slow progress of getting Welsh produce into the US market.