EU Sheep crisis talks

Farming leaders, ministers and MEP's from the EU's key sheep producing nations have met to discuss the sheep production crisis in Europe.

The conference was organised by the French Farm Minister and the current president of the EU Agriculture council, Michael Barnier, following a European Parliamentary report which called for urgent action at EU level to safeguard the future of sheep and goat sector. It took place in Limoges, France.

The delegates, which included NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh, discussed ways to tackle low profitability and declining production in the sheep sector across Europe.

Mackintosh said: "We all recognise the damage that this continuing decline in both production and profit will do - not just to the long term viability of our industry, but also to the social fabric of rural communities and the preservation and enhancement of the landscape and environment in some of the most fragile and remote regions of Europe.

"Our primary aim must be to address the market issues and declining consumption throughout the EU. We must be innovative in how we market our lamb and continually look to add value through new product lines and, most important of all, secure a fair share of the retail price of lamb."

Mackinstosh added that different countries have differing views and priorities on how to reverse the downward trend and the conference was a good opportunity to share these views.

He said that there had been a firm view among the farmer representatives, and many of the politicians, that sheep EID and individual movement recording should be a voluntary measure from January 1 2010 rather than compulsory.

"We currently have a system based on individual identification, batch recording, and movement standstills which delivers a simple, efficient, and cost effective control of animal disease," he said.

"EID and individual movement recording will only accelerate the decline in production and profitability of our sector and further damage our competitiveness on world markets."

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