Future bright for independents, AIMS says

The future is bright for the independent meat sector, according to the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers  (AIMS), but the organisation has vowed to keep fighting on a number of issues.

AIMS chairman John Thorley told delegates at the AIMS conference at the weekend (6 October) that there was a huge amount of unfinished business, and highlighted issues such as full-cost recovery and welfare that required a strong membership organisation. He also said AIMS was undergoing a small amount of “tweaking” to make it stronger to act on its members’ behalf.

He said: “We as an organisation must stimulate action and understanding to have the opportunity to take our businesses forward properly. We have to get into a position where the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is answerable for the minutiae of reducing the ability to make our businesses profitable.”

He said that in some respects the battle on full-cost recovery had been won, but warned that it still wasn’t complete. “Even though the argument has been won, we haven’t actually got the situation where full cost recovery is in the private domain and that is something that we believe to be absolutely vital,” he said.  

He pointed out that members had already benefited from refunds of EU minima under-payments, but that the industry shouldn’t be in a position where there is any overpayment or paying for something it doesn’t want.

He said that he saw the FSA as a “massive challenge”, adding: “The FSA has a tough job to persuade members that it isn’t in business to put us out of business, as that’s that it looks like at the moment. But it is far too serious an issue to play with.”  

He said there was a need for allowing businesses to operate in a sensible way. He said: “There must be controls, but those controls must not go beyond the reasonable implementation of the overall ruling – and what we have today goes way beyond.”

He also warned that welfare issues would be a “tough call” that could put the industry under pressure.

Policy director Norman Bagley told delegates that there has been considerable growth in the influence of the independent sector, and a considerable increase in the number of larger plants, from 20 out of 120 ten years ago to around 60 today.  

“That tells me the progress that the sector has made,” he said. “The sector is well and kicking and as far as the FSA stuff is concerned, the only think that will beat them in the end is money – and I think we’re half way there on that.”  


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