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Minister hosts summit to help farmers after 'tough' year

A landmark summit will be held by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to help farmers after a "particularly tough" year.

A vehicle manages to get across the flooded Somerset Levels during heavy rain last year Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Banks, charities and farming representatives will attend the meeting at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Ways of improving farmers' access to financial support after a year of bad weather will be discussed.

Cold snap farm animals death toll tops 29,000

Almost 29,000 farm animals died following recent cold weather in Northern Ireland, it was revealed today.

Sheep huddle together in the hills above the Glens of Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit: PA

Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said 28,437 fallen animals had been collected.

Some of the worst snow to affect the rural community for years fell at the end of March and the ground remained treacherous well into April.

A sheep in the hills above the Glens of Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit: PA

The Agriculture Minister intends to bring to the Stormont ministerial Executive proposals for a hardship scheme.

This will be capped at a maximum of 7,500 euro (£6,320) per farmer, including the collection and disposal costs of the fallen animals.


Weetabix halts production of two cereals after poor harvest

In a statement Weetabix have confirmed that they have had to halt production of two cereals due to the impact of last year's bad weather on the wheat crops.

We can confirm that unfortunately due to technical issues we have been unable to make Weetabix Minis and Oatibix Bitesize to our exacting standards and have taken the decision to reduce production to resolve the issues.

This has meant a shortage of supplies of these products to the retailers.

This is a temporary reduction in production and we are working hard to fully restore normal capacity so our consumers can once again enjoy the products at their best quality.

The Weetabix Minis and Oatibix Bitesize range are made in a unique factory and no other produce made by The Weetabix Food Company are affected. We apologise for the inconvenience that this may have caused our consumers but assure them of our commitment to make great tasting nutritional breakfast cereals of the highest quality.

The problem is linked to the quality of wheat caused by the extreme wet and cold weather during last year’s growing season. We remain committed to sourcing local wheat, weather permitting.

– Weetabix statement


NFU president urges supermarkets to buy British

Supermarkets must sell more British products that consumers want and stop scouring the world for the cheapest food they can find, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) demanded in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

NFU president Peter Kendall said there was "real shock" that consumers have been deceived over what was actually in the meat they had bought.

National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall pictured today. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Speaking at the NFU's annual conference today, Mr Kendall called on retailers to back British farmers and growers.

"We now need supermarkets to stop scouring the world for the cheapest products they can find and start sourcing high quality, traceable product from farmers here at home", he said, adding, "It's not as if it's nuts and bolts, pots and pans or mobile phones - this is our food".

Tesco emails customers announcing 'commitments'

Tesco has emailed its customers to announce its "new commitments" amid the horsemeat scandal.

The email from CEO Philip Clarke states, "Today I make you a promise. Tesco is going to bring the food we sell closer to home. We're going to make how we source our food simpler, more transparent and shorter, and we will build better relationships with our nation's farmers".

The email from Tesco CEO Philip Clarke highlights a number of "new commitments". Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Mr Clarke announced all fresh chickens sold in Tesco will come from UK farms from July and that the retailer will move "over time" to ensure all its chicken products - fresh and frozen - will come from British suppliers.

"Everyone in the food industry has a big job ahead to win back your trust. But I am determined to lead the way, by changing the way Tesco sources food for the better", he states.

The email also links to a newly launched Tesco Food News website which he says will "keep you informed on our progress".

"Over time, it will allow you to see where the food you are eating comes from, how it was produced and who produced it", he adds.

Councils withdraw Welsh Bros Foods beef products

Cardiff, Pembrokeshire and Bridgend Councils have withdrawn beef products supplied by Welsh Bros Foods following reports a sample of its frozen minced beef tested positive for horsemeat.

Cardiff Council said it removed the products from its schools, leisure centres and care homes "as a precaution", which was echoed by both Pembrokeshire and Bridgend Councils.

Businesses 'need to win back confidence' amid scandal

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the National Farmers' Union's annual conference that food business operators need to "get out there and win back the confidence of their customers" following the horsemeat scandal.

Mr Paterson said it was the "primary responsibility" of these businesses to ensure food is of the right quality and correctly labelled before it is sold.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson addressing the conference in Birmingham. Credit: Reuters TV

He told the audience, "It is totally unacceptable that anyone should buy something labelled beef and end up with horsemeat. That is fraud".

"I am determined that this criminal activity should be stopped and that anyone who has defrauded the customer must feel the full force of law", he added.

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