Disadvantages remain despite CAP reform progress

Disadvantages remain despite CAP reform progress

EU negotiations on CAP reform have so far failed to remove the disadvantages facing Scotland’s meat chain in comparison to production in other member states, says the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW).

In a sharply-worded letter to Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, SAMW president Alan McNaughton has warned that the UK’s position on coupled payments must be reconsidered before it’s too late.

“The latest outcome from the Council of Ministers enables the UK to make coupled payments up to 7%,” he wrote. “While this is an improvement on the current structure, it falls well short of what we need to prevent further shrinkage of our industry.”

Pointing out that some member states could apply coupled payments of up to 12%, he added: “We are at a loss to understand why our ambitions and opportunities should be thwarted by a 7% ceiling when other European Governments are able to support their livestock industries to a significantly greater degree.”

Citing eight years of constant decline in Scotland’s cattle and sheep numbers, traceable to the last reform of the CAP, Mr McNaughton said that today’s industry was already unable to take advantage of new export opportunities or make a positive contribution to the UK economy. Instead, the meat sector was coping with a shortage of supply, rocketing costs and inadequate returns, all of which had contributed to a number of business failures in the last year.

“We are aware of your opposition to the principle of coupled payments, though we do not agree with the view that the market will provide the incentive for increased livestock production, and certainly not in Scotland’s hills and uplands,” he told Mr Paterson.

Pointing out that supply problems had continued to worsen, despite a doubling of livestock values in the last eight years, he questioned the continued reliance on market forces as the UK Government’s solve-all argument. As for today, he said the industry’s problems were set to be further compounded.

“There is a limit to how much consumers are prepared to pay for meat,” he said, adding that this left the processing sector ‘squeezed in the middle’.

“We would request, therefore, that you reconsider the UK’s position on coupled payments to prevent the Scottish industry being hampered in this way. We believe there is still time to revise the UK’s position as we suggest but time is getting short.”

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