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What percentage of overcapacity there is within the abattoir industry compared with the Meat Livestock Commission's figures for 1999 which showed 49 per cent for cattle, 55 per cent for sheep and 27 per cent for pigs; and[HL2987]
How many abattoirs have closed since 1999; and how many of these fall into small, medium or large band groups; and[HL2988]
Whether, in making their assumptions of overcapacity within the abattoir industry, they have taken into account the number of animals lost during the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak.[HL2989]
Lord Whitty: The Government do not attempt to manage the numbers and location of abattoirs in a dirigiste way: slaughtering is a commercial activity provided in response to the market. We do not intend to recreate the network of municipal abattoirs provided by local authorities prior to 1972, and have no firm view of the number of abattoirs that is "acceptable" at the national level.
It follows that we do not as a matter of course monitor the level of overcapacity in the industry; from time to time, however, the Meat and Livestock Commission does produce a snapshot analysis of overcapacity according to species but it has not updated those calculations since 1999. Overcapacity, however, is a complicated issue to analyse as some speciesnotably lambshave marked seasonality in slaughtering throughout, and the slaughtering industry has rationalised into large abattoirs serving the major multiple retailers and smaller abattoirs serving more local or specialised markets.
We are concerned that in some regions the availability of abattoirs serving more specialist outlets has declined. We are keen for producers and processors to add value by developing regionally branded and other specialist types of meat. We will work closely with the regional development agencies to identify where assistance to small and medium abattoirs is needed to encourage innovation and investment in the meat supply chain. In addition, where appropriate we will also offer direct support for new or expanded facilities through the processing and marketing grant and for the associated marketing of quality products through the Rural Enterprise Scheme. The analysis of need and capacity is best carried out at the regional or sub-regional level.
Between 1999 and May 2003, in England, 85 red meat abattoirs have ceased to be licensed to operate (53 low throughput and 32 full throughput); and 39 white meat abattoirs have ceased to be licensed to operate (12 low throughput and 27 full throughput). However, during the same period, 15 red meat abattoirs have gained a licence (seven low throughput and eight full throughput; and 15 white meat abattoirs have gained a licence (nine low throughput and six full throughput).
In the UK in 1999, there were 263 full throughput red meat abattoirs and 190 low throughput, compared with 238 and 141 respectively in 2003. Comparable figures for white meat abattoirs were 106 full and 64 low throughput in 1999 and 89 full and 52 low in 2003.
What a farmer is expected to do with any decomposing carcasses if, under the new rules on disposal of fallen stock, a contractor takes over three days to collect them from a farm.[HL2894]
Lord Whitty: Under most circumstances collectors will be expected to collect carcasses within 24 hours of reporting. However, if carcasses do have to be held pending collection, they must be held in such a way that domestic animals, including farmed livestock and wild animals cannot gain access to them. In practice, it would be reasonable to expect them to be held securely, such as in an enclosed building, or an area away from livestock under a suitable cover, such as a tarpaulin.
There are no plans to provide farmers with storage containers under the subscription scheme. Some farmers may wish to provide their own storage containers, which must remain on the farm pending collection. Any such container must prevent animals/birds gaining access to the carcasses and must be both leak-proof, capable of cleansing and disinfecting and maintained in a clean condition.
Lord Whitty: Fallen stock are considered to be agricultural waste and currently are not controlled by the Waste Management Licensing Regulations. However, this situation is expected to change in 2004. At that time, shared low capacity incinerators which operate at below 50 kg/hour will additionally require a waste management licence issued by the Environment Agency or SEPA. This is because the exemption from licensing only applies where the waste is disposed of at the point of production. Those above 50 kg/hour will require licensing by the local authority, as at present.
Due to the way our database is arranged it is not possible to provide separately identifiable information for fallen stock. However, for the period from 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003 the Department has responded to 88 per cent of all BSE-related correspondence, including fallen stock, within the 15 working day deadline.
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