THE REDISTRIBUTION of red meat levies to take account of cross-border livestock movements between England, Wales and Scotland has been agreed by all three nations, and will be implemented on April 1, 2021.

The three levy bodies, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Meat Promotion Wales/Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), have worked together to develop individual calculations for the cross-border movement to the slaughter of cattle, sheep and pigs. 

It will address the imbalance in the current system where levy is collected in the country of slaughter without taking into account the country where the animal spent a significant part of its life. It only applies to the proportion of levy collected from farmers and is to come into effect at the start of the 2021/2022 financial year.

It has been a long-running objective for all three boards to have direct control over all levies from home-producers for marketing campaigns, industry development and export activities. However, all three organisations say they plan to maintain their commitment to collaborative projects.

CLEARER, ACCOUNTABLE AND TRANSPARENT

Gwyn Howells, Chief Executive of HCC, said: “Since the issue was first raised by HCC as part of the Radcliffe Review in 2005, it’s been a long journey to achieve clearer accountability and transparency in the way the red meat producer levy is distributed, and to fairly reflect the devolved nature of agriculture.

“This change will help HCC provide best value for the levy contributed by farmers in Wales and place us in a stronger position to promote our iconic Welsh brands and deliver for our industry.”

AHDB Chief Strategy Officer Will Jackson, said: “We are pleased that all three nations have agreed on the changes to levy distribution and we are excited about this new way of working, which will come into effect next month.

“Whilst we welcome the reformed levy distribution mechanism, we are committed to continuing our collaborative approach to working and hope to build on the success of the last few years, which includes our jointly-run marketing campaigns and promotional activities overseas, all of which brings huge benefits to our levy payers.”

Chief Executive of QMS, Alan Clarke, said: “Behind the positive outcome of the levy repatriation agreement, there are a number of people who we must recognise for their hard work behind the scenes to make this happen.

“We are grateful for the tremendous effort made by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing who has been at the coal-face advocating for the scheme, which was drafted by Scottish Government officials, on behalf of QMS, HCC and AHDB.

“Acknowledgement must also be made to previous Chairman Jim McLaren, as well as former Chief Executive Uel Morton, who undertook the initial work and subsequently laid the foundation for current QMS Chair Kate Rowell, and myself, to build upon and ensure it was completed as planned.”

DISCREPANCIES ADDRESSED

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs (Wales), said: “The agreement on red meat levies is very good news for Welsh levy payers, allowing for a fairer way of allocating the levy paid by farmers.

“This new scheme addresses growing discrepancies between the amount of levy collected by abattoirs in parts of the United Kingdom relative to livestock populations reared elsewhere. I am very pleased the levy bodies and each of the administrations involved have been able to come to this agreement.”

Fergus Ewing, Rural Economy Secretary (Scotland), said: “I am delighted to see that, from April 1, we will at long last have a mechanism for the repatriation of red meat levy. It is only right that the levy bodies have the ability to transfer money to each other and to work out the best mechanisms for calculating what should be redistributed across borders.”

DEFRA Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, said: “I am pleased that from next month there will be a fairer distribution of the red meat levy which will reflect where livestock is reared.

“I congratulate the levy bodies of England, Scotland and Wales for their tireless efforts in redressing the redistribution of the levy in the livestock industry and look forward to continued close working between the three organisations.”

NFU CYMRU: NEW SYSTEM IS FAIRER FOR WALES

NFU Cymru welcomed the news. The Union has lobbied, for many years, for the re-distribution of levy income to take a fairer account of the level of red meat production here in Wales.

NFU Cymru said the previous system saw levy money collected and used in the country that the animal was slaughtered in. Wales lost out as a result of a net move of livestock, out of the country to be slaughtered. NFU Cymru believes that the system was flawed because it was based solely on the location of abattoirs; a decision that is completely outside the control of primary producers.

NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman, Wyn Evans said: “We are pleased that, after a long-drawn-out process that the UK’s red meat levy bodies, using the powers under the UK Agriculture Act, have come together and agreed on a mechanism that looks to address the inequality in the current system, without adding any additional cost to producers or processors. It makes sense that the mechanism maintains the basis of the current levy collection system.”

NFU Cymru has also welcomed the news that the levy bodies will, where relevant, work together and jointly fund activities that have mutual benefit to all red meat levy payers.

Mr Evans added: “Whilst in Wales there must be a focus on marketing and promoting our own PGI brands, there are areas where it is prudent to work together and share resources between all three countries in the red meat chain. This has been a clear steer from NFU Cymru, underlined by the current Covid-19 crisis and our recent departure from the EU, where joint campaigns have highlighted real and tangible benefits for the UK’s red meat sector. 

“There are other areas of work that will benefit, including promoting the positive health benefits of red meat as part of a balanced diet and issues around climate change.

“We now look forward to continuing to work closely with Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) on the key priorities needed to ensure a thriving, progressive, productive and profitable red meat sector in Wales.”