Just chilling by the pool

I write in response to the letter from Mr Toby Baker - November 25, 2005.

I joined the MLC in 2001 from a business background with an open-mind towards the pros and cons of levy boards.

With the issues and challenges of change that the red meat sector has faced in the last five years, and still faces, I believe if the MLC didn't exist something very much like it would have to be invented.

The beef market recovery post 1996, the pig market recovery post 2000 and the lamb market recovery post 2001 have all been substantially achieved from farmer and processor levy funds. Unlike many of our EU competitors, we now enjoy a robust UK marketplace with both the image and consumption of red meat at the highest level for 20 years.

This shows how effective this industry can be when we work together. These are things, Mr Baker, which are beyond the scope or responsibility of an individual red meat business or supply chain.

The vast majority of our industry values the expertise, knowledge and professionalism of MLC (inc. BPEX, EBLEX, HCC and QMS) staff.

Personally, I have found them to be the most committed and dedicated group of people I've worked with during my 40-year career and I believe our industry has been very fortunate.

MLC has also improved its own efficiency and streamlined costs. We have a slimmer more focused federal structure that takes the work of MLC nearer to its stakeholders in England, Scotland and Wales. And over the last five years we have reduced our headcount by 27%, reduced administration costs by 28% and and targets/ratios for levy collection have halved.

To those who say levy boards don't do much I would politely suggest they ring up and find out how their cash is being spent. There is a wide range of valuable work going on to the benefit of both the industry and those individual processor and farmer businesses which choose to participate and improve their margins.

I sincerely hope the work of the MLC will continue, because I firmly believe we are still needed in today's marketplace.

Peter Barr CBE

Chairman, Meat and Livestock Commission

Winterhill House

Snowdon Drive


MiltonKeynes MK6 1AX

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