Memorandum submitted by the Meat and Livestock
Thank you for giving the Meat and Livestock
Commission the opportunity to submit written evidence to your
Committee's inquiry into the role of DEFRA. As requested, we enclose
comments on the direction DEFRA is taking, rather than on the
details of DEFRA activity over the past year.
Firstly, we welcome the establishment of the
new Department. The amalgamation of policy decision-making on
the environment into agriculture, food and rural affairs is a
logical step and one which, to a greater or lesser extent, is
also being adopted in Brussels.
We recognise the Government's wish to put sustainability
and the interests of consumers and our rural communities at the
heart of food and agriculture policy-making.
We also welcome the decision to integrate the
environment, food and rural affairs into one department, to enable
officials and Ministers to take a more joined-up approach to British
sustainable food production.
We acknowledge that the creation of a major
new Government Department takes time. Our experience is that DEFRA
has made a good start, but is still "bedding down",
and it may well be another six to nine months before both structural
and staff changes are finalised. We are aware that there are difficult
issues in terms of staff conditions which need to be resolved.
However, we would stress that the DEFRA should
not lose sight of the urgent need to improve the efficiency of
the food chain (and the red meat supply chain in particular),
and to ensure sustainable competition at all stages of the food
chain. Only by doing this will the British meat industry have
a sustainable future.
MLC's Vision is that within five years the industry
can be a world-class, trusted, efficient supply chain delivering
a product preferred by consumers.
We believe that this can be brought about by:
communicating what the consumer wants
back down the supply chain;
a significant improvement in the
eating quality of British product, compared with the competition;
a meat and livestock industry that
meets the needs of modern consumers;
a step change in the integrity and
competitiveness of the supply chain.
It is particularly in achieving this last aim
that DEFRA's policies and support can make a difference. Much
remains to be done.
More widely, changes in global, EU and national
policy reflect the fact that priorities for major industrialised
countries are decreasingly concerned with conventional food productionthis
trend is reflected by shifts away from the subsidisation of primary
There is also a widespread perception that the
CAP is currently too costly, rewards the wrong producers and requires
reform. There is a willingness to subsidise primary production
so long as this results in goods and services that match the changing
needs of society, which include creating a livestock industry
sympathetic to, and working in harmony with, the environment.
But, in developing policies which move away
from conventional production subsidies towards agri-environmental
schemes, DEFRA must not lose sight of the underlying market realities:
consumers expect a wide choice of
food products offered in a variety of settings (ie retail, foodservice,
catering etc), ranging in cost, ease of preparation and taste;
they demand products that suit every
budget as well as appropriate hygiene standards, with as much
transparency and traceability as is practical for the industry
to supply; and
consumers also expect those involved
to receive a return from farming and food production that reflects
the investment of effort made, and the opportunity to compete
on a level playing field.
MLC will assist DEFRA in developing practical
policies to encourage the British red meat industry to become
sustainable, profitable and competitive. In return, we would urge
the Department always to focus on consumer needs when moving towards
sustainable food and farming.
We hope these comments will assist the Committee
in its inquiry. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have
any queries about our submission.
31 May 2002