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UK Agriculture Bill secures fairer share of red meat levy for each nation

Changes to the distribution of red meat levy across England, Wales and Scotland will be implemented next year to recognise cross-border livestock movement and provide greater transparency to farmers and processors in each of the UK nations.

This follows the passing of the Agriculture Bill, which paves the way for levy payments to be made from one country to another to address, as appropriate, livestock movements across national borders.

It has been a long-running objective for all three boards to have direct control over home-generated levies for domestic marketing campaigns, industry development and export activities.  The new scheme will see more than £1million of levy collected in English abattoirs return to each of Scotland and Wales.

The three levy bodies have worked collaboratively to identify a methodology and mechanism that can underpin the redistribution of red meat levies, which will be updated each year.

The scheme, which needs to be approved by ministers in all three countries, will enable the red meat levy to reflect the location where the animal was reared, rather than the country of slaughter. This approach is welcomed by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Meat Promotion Wales, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). 

For the past three years, as an interim solution, AHDB, HCC and QMS have estimated what the financial amount could be from levy reform and have used it to fund a collaborative programme of activities to support the British meat industry.

This includes collaboration on market access and pre-competitive promotional work overseas and work to underpin the nutritional benefits of red meat across the UK. Part of this was the recently successful Make It campaign, initiated to encourage consumers to buy red meat as the food service industry was severely hit by lockdown restrictions in the spring. 

It is anticipated that the new levy scheme will be in place by April 1, 2021, to replace the collaborative ring-fenced fund.  While the funds earned from English, Scottish and Welsh beef, lamb and pork supply chains would enable each country to invest into local projects, the three organisations plan to maintain collaborative projects in a number of areas.  

AHDB Chief Strategy Officer Will Jackson said:  

“We are gratified this enactment lays the groundwork for changes to levy distribution, for the benefit of our levy payers in England, Scotland and Wales.

“Parliament has recognised the cross-border nature of our red meat supply chains and the need to reform the levy distribution mechanism to recognise where producers have economic value.

“In the interim, QMS, HCC and AHDB have developed an effective collaborative approach on joint initiatives to benefit the British meat industry.”

Chief Executive of QMS, Alan Clarke, said  

“While the differences in our landscape, our markets and our production systems necessitate direct control of our own, domestic levy payments, we are committed to continuing to work together on strategic priorities and in addressing the challenges which our industry faces such as leaving the EU, the terms of future trade deals and tackling climate change.” 

Gwyn Howells, Chief Executive of HCC, added:  

“A modernised levy system, which more accurately reflects where livestock are reared in the various nations of the UK and takes account of changes in the structure of the processing industry, has been a long-cherished aim of the farming industry in Wales and successive Welsh ministers. This will give greater accountability to Welsh levy-payers on how the money is spent.

“We are very pleased that the Westminster Parliament has enacted this change, and that ourselves along with AHDB and QMS have been able to calculate a fair and efficient system of redistribution. We look forward to continuing to collaborate between the three levy-boards on areas of common interest.”