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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 20:54 GMT 21:54 UK


EU aid for British sheep farmers

Sheep dip: Price of lamb has collapsed

BBC Europe Correspondent Jon Sopel reports on the cash strapped farmers who are considering working in France
Britain's beleaguered sheep industry has received a boost after the European Union approved a scheme to bolster the depressed market for lamb.

Farmers can now get grants enabling them to freeze slaughtered livestock, keeping some 140,000 lambs off the market to avoid driving down the price of the meat still further.

Farming in crisis
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown welcomed the EU decision to adopt the proposal which will allow grants for freezing 2350 tonnes of British lamb.

The plan will allow applications for grants from next month to 12 November, for a minimum storage period of three months.

The decision comes as the Prince of Wales expressed his concern over the plight of sheep farmers who are suffering financially due to the crisis in the farming industry.

[ image: Agriculture Minister Nick Brown:
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown: "Welcome firming of prices"
Mr Brown said: "In recognition of the difficulties facing sheep farmers we have worked hard within the EU to persuade the commission and our European partners to grant aids to private storage in this sector.

"This scheme has the potential to remove some 140,000 lambs from the market in the period October to December 1999, and if that potential is achieved, it should result in a welcome firming of prices."

Aid will be at a rate of 1400 Euros per tonne of frozen lamb placed in store for three months.

It will be paid to abattoirs and processors which undertake to remove lamb from the market and store it before releasing it onto the market again.

Market crash

Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Don Curry said: "This will be welcome news for sheep farmers who are experiencing a severe crisis in trying to maintain their businesses."

National Sheep Association chairman David Raine added: "The Private Storage Aid Scheme would help put a bottom on the market and provide some much needed confidence at a critical time of the year for sheep producers."

The market for lamb has crashed during the recent farming crisis.

Some farmers have dumped unwanted and worthless animals at welfare centres and animal sanctuaries, rather than pay the costs of slaughter or keeping them.

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