BMPA urges Paterson to help on CAP

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has written to Defra secretary of state Owen Paterson raising concerns over UK livestock supplies and urging the government to ensure that implementation of the new CAP agreement is production-focused.

In the letter, BMPA president Andrew Simpson pointed out that the UK suckler herd continued to decline, despite high cattle prices and strong demand for red meat.

He said that poor weather, high production costs and “uncertainty” over the implementation of the new CAP agreement had left livestock producers with “inadequate confidence” about the long-term future, while processors were facing tight supplies and squeezed margins.

Simpson called for the government to address these problems by putting increased food production at the centre of its approach to the CAP reform discussions.

“There are some useful features in last month’s political agreement, but, overall, the outcome is a complex and a far from common CAP, especially as regards the livestock sector,” he said.

“You are aware that there is very great industry concern about how the government intends to implement the agreement within the UK, and a fear that the outcome will disadvantage England, and so would merely deepen the lack of confidence among livestock producers, especially in England.”

He urged the government to retain as much funding in Pillar 1 as possible, pointing out that direct payments were the “most effective way” to boost livestock producer confidence. “Shifting funds from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 will send the wrong signals to producers,” he said.

He added that the government should resist the tempation to supplement the UK’s low share of Pillar 2 funding through modulation from Pillar 1.

“Whatever funds are allocated to Pillar 2, we are very keen for these to be used to boost food production competitiveness and efficiency. In our view, past rural development funds have too often been squandered,” he said.

Simpson concluded by recognising that the implemenation of CAP would not be the only factor influencing the future of the UK meat industry, and said that the BMPA was working with other industry bodies to find ways to boost the sector through improved performance, efficiency and marketing.

However, he added: “We also need the government to set a policy framework that enables us to compete and to give our producers and processors real confidence in the future. Please help us to help ourselves.”