Meat sourcing crisis

The International Meat Traders Association has called on processors to lobby Brussels following the collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations.

In a meeting held at Butchers Hall on 10 September, IMTA said that tightening meat supplies are posing a real threat to the industry, and the failure of multilateral trade agreements could be a disaster for the British meat industry.

Speaking at the meeting, IMTA secretary general Liz Murphy said that when the Commission scrapped direct subidies under CAP reform, it predicted that domestic production would drop, but assumed future WTO agreements would increase import opportunities.

In the light of the WTO failure and the increasing expansion of the EU market, IMTA wants the EU to reconsider its import quotas and tariffs.

"We do not expect the EU to remove tariffs and quotas altogether, simply to reconsider the situation now that the WTO talks have failed," said Murphy.

"Producers have a very well established lobbying voice but there has been a vacuum of lobbying from the processors, who are increasingly finding it difficult to source enough meat to run their businesses."

In order to take its case to Brussels, IMTA has formed an action group called the European Meat Access Council and has called on processors to contribute their ideas and opinions.

Peter Bernard, general manager of economic planning and market services for Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) said that countries such as Australia were keen to supply the European market and described the EU is "the last great bastion in the meat world in terms of restricted trade."

"There is no other market in the world which has the same degree of restriction as the EU does. Importers such as Australia are anxious and willing, and have the capacity to supply the European market, but the gate has to be unlocked," he said.

Jenny Burt, of the European Meat Access Committee, added that with consumers facing record prices for meat there is a danger that consumption might drop, and the industry must act now to secure its future.

"We have a meat industry that depends on the supply of meat and it might well be that industry could shrink," she said.

"The WTO talks are in the doldrums and the EU doesn't seem to have a contingency plan. We have restricted production and restricted imports, we either accept that somewhere along the line we will have a shrinking industry, or we try and do something about it."