Smithfield Reels as Meat Runs out; FOOT-AND-MOUTH CRISIS

By Adamson, Colin | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

Smithfield Reels as Meat Runs out; FOOT-AND-MOUTH CRISIS


Adamson, Colin, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: COLIN ADAMSON

THOUSANDS of independent butchers, food factory workers and hauliers are today in danger of losing their jobs as the knock-on effects of the worsening foot-and-mouth disaster begin to take hold.

With four more outbreaks expected to be confirmed today, bringing the total number of cases to 22 in nine counties across England and Wales, the first indefinite layoffs have already been forced.

Owners of a meat processing plant near Hull have told its 320 workers that desperate supply shortages mean there is no longer enough work for them to do. Another 500 staff in East Riding were being put on shorter working weeks, the workers' GMB union said. Dawn Meats abattoir at Carnaby, North Yorkshire, has put 200 workers on restricted hours.

Some workers at Smithfield market have also been sent home as wholesalers ran out of supplies early today. As the Conservatives succeeded in forcing an emergency parliamentary debate on the crisis, GMB general secretary John Edmonds warned: "We have estimated that as many as 10,000 people, including abattoir and processing plant workers, face indefinite layoffs unless the situation is contained within the next week or so."

And with shelves and freezers emptying fast, the National Federation of Meat Traders warned that hundreds of Britain's 7,500 independent butchers could be forced out of business if the ban that has now practically shut down the countryside is not lifted soon.

NFMT chief executive Graham Bidston warned: "Small butchers can't survive in these circumstances for long."

He revealed butchers dependent on local farm supplies were already having extreme difficulty getting hold of meat and the situation is set to intensify in the next few days, "I've spoken to quite a few butchers who say they are already having trouble getting hold of meat," he said, adding: "Some of them have said once they run out they will close down. If it goes on for long some of them may never open again."

Mr Bidston said if butchers could not get hold of meat from wholesalers they would be forced to bring in imported supplies, leading to a rise in the price of meat for both retailers and customers.

He added that he did not blame Agriculture Minister Nick Brown for imposing the livestock ban. He said: "Everybody agrees the Minister took the right decision, I don't think they will say anything other than that.

"The problem is how long this goes on. If it goes on for another week or two it will create a shortage."

Mr Edmonds said it is vital the Government extends its [pound]152 million compensation package to cover workers in other sectors. He added: "Farmers already receive a good deal in terms of subsidy and compensation.

"It is imperative that farmers are not seen to be given preferential treatment at the expense of workers in other associated industries.

Despite the strength of the appeal the Agriculture Minister continued to insist there would be no compensation for hauliers, abattoirs and food processing firms hit by the outbreak.

Using Government cash to compensate them would be in danger of infringing EU rules, he said. …

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