Levies row looks set for resolution after talks

Lamb under the "lost levvies"
Lamb under the "lost levvies"
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Despite reports that agreement had been reached by the industry bodies involved on the issue of repatriation of red meat levies to Scotland, producers were warned yesterday that it could be some time before the estimated £1.6 million of levy payments lost annually flowed back into the country.

The often controversial “lost levies” issue has arisen because many of the lambs and other stock reared in Scotland are sold to slaughterhouses and processors south of the Border, and the levies charged there go to the English and Welsh promotional and development bodies rather than being returned to the body operating in Scotland, where the lambs were born and reared.

The net result is that while Scotland is home to around 22 per cent of the national sheep flock, only around 11 per cent of UK levies from sheep go to the country’s industry body, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). And although new facilities should help rectify the situation, the recent lack of pig slaughtering facilities has led to a similar loss of levies from the pig sector in recent years.

While there has been no official acknowledgment of the situation, sources indicated that agreement had recently been reached between the industry bodies involved, likely to be revealed to producers before Christmas.

However in a joint statement issued yesterday, the three organisations – QMS, the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) and the Welsh promotional body, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) – gave a measured response: “Discussions between the three GB red meat levy boards on the matter of levy redistribution are continuing.

“While the on-going dialogue is constructive and progress is being made, it is important to bear in mind that finding a workable solution would require legislative change.”

This implies that, before any changes could be brought into operation, government ministers would be required to make significant alterations to statutory instruments and legislation before the repatriation of levies could take place.

“This would clearly take some time to achieve and require a process of full consultation with the industry,” said the three organisations.

l Also on the levy front, theAHDB has announced that it is to hold the 2016-17 rates charged to producers at the same level as this year.

With the £3.4 million of levies gathered from Scottish crop, potato, horticulture and milk levies contributing to the UK-wide fund, AHDB chief executive Jane King flagged up that a restructuring process was under way and encouraged producers to contribute to the review.