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'We're still here... but it's hard'.

The following is an open letter from Machynlleth butcher Wil Lloyd Williams and is addressed to "Westminster, the Assembly, NFU, FUW, farmers who are owed money and those poor people who recently lost jobs in the meat industry".

I RUN a small abattoir in a very rural location that has been in the family since 1959, when it was one of eight in Montgomeryshire.

European directives in the late 1980s had a significant impact on these 'craft' family business: after numerous visits from the then MAFF, vast sums of money were often needed to ensure continuity of operations.

Then, after spending your pounds 250,000 you could only do 20 livestock units a week (one unit equals one cow, eight lambs or four pigs) on low-throughput premises.

It got better: 1986 saw Chernobyl in sheep, 1993 saw BSE, 1995-96 blue ear disease in pigs and in 2001 foot and mouth. Now scrapie, TB and bird flu loom.

They all took their toll. Since the early 1990s Machynlleth Abattoir has been the only multi-species abattoir in Montgomeryshire.

The mid 1990s also saw the Meat Hygiene Service come into being: more inspectors, more cost and more abattoirs closing. We, the small abattoirs, got together to fight for a headage charge, meaning if you were busy you paid more.

During FMD, centrally situated small abattoirs became important again. MAFF upped our throughput allowance to 30 units a week to be in line with our European partners. Good God, they gave us a chance to make money.

During these turbulent times we, the small lads, have grit our teeth, shed a lot of sweat and, in some cases, a few tears. But we are still here.

Smaller operators like us don't have projects large enough to attract large grants. We have received small amounts, but cannot create the employment that larger operators can provide.

This letter is not written to criticise recent happenings in the abattoir industry in North Wales. I just want to highlight problems industry-wide for both large and small outlets.

I will sum up with quotes from Welsh folk heroes: Duw It's Hard, by Max Boyce' and Ydw Dyma Ohyd (I'm still here), by Dafydd Iwan.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 18, 2006
Words:365
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