Sheep farmers have welcomed funding for small abattoirs announced by Farming Minister Mark Spencer earlier this week.

Over the past ten years, more than 20 per cent of abattoirs have closed.

The new funding, to be detailed later this year, will aim to help smaller abattoirs in England to add value by supporting local produce availability, providing equipment to support the rearing of rare and native breeds, encouraging rural employment, and safeguarding the food supply chain.

Phil Stocker, National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive, said: “NSA is extremely pleased to see an appreciation of the importance of small abattoirs to local communities and to ensuring a sustainable supply chain.

"More than a fifth of the abattoir network has been lost over the last decade, with several closing in the last 12 months due to supply chain pressure, labour shortages, rising productions cost and increases in the cost of power.

READ MORE: Is live export ban workable with so few abattoirs?

“A key component in the government’s food strategy is that healthy and sustainable food should be sourced as locally as possible – yet the capacity to do this is escaping communities quicker than that policy can be enacted.

"NSA has been asking for some time for the government to support and incentivise investment in our supply chain infrastructure and is extremely pleased to see this appreciation for locally produced and procured food.

“NSA welcomes further detail and urges the government to enact incentives and funding as soon as possible, to ensure the closure of further businesses can be avoided.”