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Vince Cable urged to examine FSA cost recovery

SAMW has written to Dr Vincent Cable, in his capacity as chair of the Reducing Regulation Committee (RCC), giving him ‘chapter and verse’ on the Association’s view of the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) proposals to charge the industry the full cost of meat hygiene inspections.

“The consultation on which the full cost recovery proposal was based was a false representation and gave no solid foundation on which to take decisions affecting the future of businesses and the employees who work there,” SAMW told Dr Cable, who’s committee is due to examine the FSA’s costing proposals shortly.

The Association letter, written on behalf of member companies with an aggregate annual turnover of more than £1 billion and employing more than 4000 staff directly, was signed by Ian Anderson, SAMW Executive Manager. He made the point that the FSA’s proposal was effectively asking the industry to ‘pay double for what are currently sub-standard goods from a monopoly supplier’. He also highlighted both the industry’s considerable export-earning value to the UK economy and the many challenges which member businesses are facing.

“On the economic front,” he wrote, “the red meat sector has an important place in the nation’s efforts to recover from the recession. The Coalition Government is on record as advocating that increased exports should be a major plank in its strategy. The Scottish red meat sector’s record in this respect is impressive with exports increasing by 40% between 2009 and 2010, and continuing that trend in 2011.”

However, he also wrote: “In recent weeks two of our members have ceased processing because their increased costs simply cannot be recouped from retailers.”

After explaining that the meat processing sector faces many external challenges which are increasing the possibility of business failures, he added that FSA charges, at the current level, were a significant factor in the recent business decisions to which he’d referrred.

“It is not difficult,” he went on, “to see how the introduction of full cost recovery as proposed by the FSA could greatly exacerbate this state of affairs.”

The letter, copied to Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State; James Paice, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food at Defra and Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment at the Scottish Government, concluded with a ‘respectful request’ for the Committee to take SAMW’s members’ views into account in reaching its decision.

For the full text of the letter click here