Meat Industry Opposes FSA Cost-Recovery Plan

UK - Meat indsutry and farming bodies in the UK have sent a letter of warning to Defra Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, that Food Standards Agency (FSA) plans for full cost recovery for official controls in meat plants will see the lion share of £32 million in costs being shouldered by livestock farmers who can ill-afford the hike.
calendar icon 23 December 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

The letter sent by a group of organisations across the livestock industry, including NFU, AIMS, BMPA, BPC, FUW, NBA, NBA, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, NIMEA, NPA, NSA, SAMW and the UFU, calls for a full review of the FSA’s delivery of meat inspection to be carried out, and market tested, to identify where further cost-savings can be made before industry is forced to face a huge bill.

The National Farmers Union livestock board chairman, Alistair Mackintosh said: “We fully recognise the pressures on public expenditure in these difficult economic times and we also recognise that Food Business Operators are principally responsible for ensuring the production and marketing of safe food.

"However there are high regulatory costs for delivering a public good – in this case food safety – and we strongly believe it is unfair for industry to pick up all these costs.

“Looking at the detail, official controls in the meat sector are currently carried out by a high cost monopoly public service provider - the FSA.

"The FSA’s costs include the high and still rising overhead costs linked to high staffing levels and the terms and conditions of FSA employment, including its pension provisions and liabilities.

"While FBOs are content to be charged for the operational costs of efficient and proportionate inspections, they do not see - and I agree - why they should carry the FSA’s inflated overhead costs.

"If the FSA cannot or will not do more to reduce its costs, we should look for alternatives. This could be the delivery of inspections by an external private sector provider, with the FSA carrying out an audit function.

“My biggest fear is that the additional £32 million in costs that the FSA intends to pass back to industry will be shouldered by livestock producers. This will simply erode the competitiveness and sustainability of the British meat and livestock industry as a whole at a time when government wants farmers to increase the amount of food we produce.

“We should remember that the meat industry, as part of the wider food industry, also makes a valuable contribution to the national economy through domestic and export sales, and employment. If we put up barriers to domestic production in this way we risk simply displacing British meat supplies with imports.

“I believe that full cost recovery should not be imposed until a full review has been carried out. Only when this work has been completed can we re-examine plans for full cost recovery, and give fuller consideration to alternative options for the delivery of official meat controls.”

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