Welsh seek to increase levy

Welsh meat bosses have announced plans to increase levy rates for the first time in a decade. Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), which has seen levy income plummet in recent years, said the move was essential if it was to continue to invest and develop the red meat industry in Wales.

The rise, if it is given the go-head following consultation, would mean an extra 16p for sheep, £1.10 for cattle and 25p for pigs at the point of slaughter, with the new rates to come into force on 1 April, 2011.

Rees Roberts, HCC chairman, said: “Brand recognition of both Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef has improved dramatically in recent years. Welsh Lamb has been particularly successful, becoming the most recognised lamb brand in key markets both at home and abroad.

“This is due to the continuing investment made by HCC in the brands, both at a marketing level and also in areas of research and development, which encourage farmers and processors to improve efficiency and productivity.

“But we have now reached a crossroads. HCC’s effectiveness in delivering a range of services to develop the red meat sector and promote Welsh products will be curtailed unless we take action now.

“Falling livestock figures coupled with inflation has steadily eroded the organisation’s income. That is why HCC is today announcing plans to increase the statutory levy it collects from producers and processors.

“If approved, this will be the first increase for a decade, as the current charges have been in place since 2001,” he added.

HCC will now undertake a nine-week consultation exercise across all sectors of the red meat supply chain, with completion on 16 December. It added that levy income had fallen by more than 35%, from almost £4m in 2005 to a projected £2.5m in 2011.

“Reduced income will inevitably have a negative impact on HCC’s ability to fulfil all the requirements demanded of it by our levy payers,” said Roberts.

“We are part of a highly competitive global business community. It is therefore essential that the interests of Welsh red meat producers are promoted to the best of our ability. That will not be the case if things remain as they are.”

The HCC Board has agreed to seek an increase in the levy of 16p for sheep, £1.10 for cattle, 3p for calves and 25p for pigs.

The new levy rates are planned to come into force on 1 April, 2011.

“The levy has not been increased since 2001, because we have been sensitive to the needs of the industry during what has been a very difficult time,” said Roberts. “After the last increase in 2001, the industry has had to deal with two outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease as well as low returns for farmers.

“The situation now, however, is unsustainable if we are to continue to provide the high-quality service that the industry demands. That is why we feel the time is right to seek an increase in levy rates.”