§ Mr. Latham
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what checks are made by his officials with representatives of the meat trade to ensure that cattle rejected on conformation under the certification scheme for beef premium are not subsequently sold at prices achieved by accepted clean animals; and with what results;
(2) what representations he has received from beef producers regarding the number of Friesian steers rejected for beef premium purposes; what action he has taken to investigate such complaints; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I have had several representations from beef producers and from farming organisations about the number of animals rejected for certification346W under the beef premium scheme. All individual complaints are investigated and the certification standards themselves are reviewed regularly to ensure that they correspond with the needs of the market. Well over 90 per cent. of all cattle presented for certification qualify for the premium.
My Department recently undertook a special survey of market prices which confirmed that cattle rejected for certification tend to fetch lower prices than accepted cattle, and black and white rejected cattle markedly less. There is therefore no reason to believe that, overall, the standards do not reflect the current needs of the market. I am, however, always willing to consider the case for changes in the standards should new evidence come to light that they are needed.