Copa-Cogeca’s chairman of the EU Sheep Reflections Forum, John Bryan, has submitted a number of recommendations to the European Commission (EC) tasked with addressing the “very low” incomes in Europe’s sheep sector.
Whilst the measures have not been made public, Copa-Cogeca told this site the key measures include stronger CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) payments, better promotion measures, reinforced efforts to tackle unfair trading practices and better identification.
However, Rizvan Khalid, policy director of Euro Quality Lambs, said he would like to see Copa-Cogeca lean on the EC to cut the “theoretical risk” TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) measures imposed on the sector.
“Sheep meat is already an expensive protein and one thing I would really like to see is an unwinding of TSE measures for sheep. These have started to be relaxed for cattle as the ban on feed in cattle has had the required effect, but this has not happened for sheep meat.”
Rizvan explained the TSE measures imposed on sheep after TSE controls on cattle were implemented in the mid-90s are based on “theoretical risk”. The issue, Khalid said, is that it’s difficult to prove a reduction in a theoretical risk and called the European Commission’s decision to leave the measure on sheep as “really stupid”.
According to Khalid, the measures puts extra costs on the cost-sensitive sheep meat sector as the spleen has to be removed in sheep aged six to 12 months. The spinal cord and skull are removed from sheep over a year old and producers have to split the carcass which “devalues the product from a trading perspective”. He added there are extra processing costs, inspection costs and impacts to trade as its difficult to tell China and the US that there is no risk when the EC says there is a “theoretical risk” of TSE for sheep meat.
Khalid did stress that he agreed with Copa-Cogeca’s other recommendations and said it was important to support the sheep meat sector.
Red tape cuts
Speaking after Copa-Cogeca’s EU Sheep Reflection Forum meeting, chairman of Copa-Cogeca’s Sheep Working Party, Charles Sercombe, also livestock board chairman at the National Farmers’ Union, said he was “confident” the recommendations will address volatility in the market.
“Sheep producers need a sustainable income, increased market transparency and price reporting and young people need to be attracted into the sector, including through increased support via targeted measures in the EU Rural Development Programme,” said Sercombe.
“We are confident that many of the solutions proposed today – including promotion measures, strong EU support, market transparency, combating unfair trading practices in the food chain, etc. - will help to achieve these objectives.
“We need measures that help to provide a quality consistent product. Lamb is a very important source of minerals and vitamins like B6 and B12 in a consumer’s diet and they need to be aware of this... Red tape and bureaucracy also needs to be cut as it stifles innovation.”