SCOTLAND - Despite the challenges Scottish red meat processors are currently facing they have many reasons to feel confident about the long-term future for the red meat industry, according to Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland.
Speaking today (Saturday April 26th, 2014) at the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) “Foundation for Growth” conference in Glasgow, Mr McLaren said there were many opportunities for the industry on the horizon.
Much uncertainty remains, he said, around the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Despite much-publicised concerns about the potential impact of some aspects of the reform, it could also deliver some unexpected changes which will unlock opportunity.
“The controversial introduction of the three crop rule where a farm over a certain size with arable ground is required to grow three crops, one of which can be grass, is one example,” said Mr McLaren.
“While at face value this is an unwelcome policy which interferes unnecessarily with normal farming practices, if implemented in its current form it could result in more grass being grown and a switch back to more traditional mixed farming systems. QMS is currently looking at a range of management options which demonstrate that grass-based livestock enterprises can compare favourably with cereals on many Scottish farms.”
Another positive signal for beef production in 2020 is the continuity of the Beef Calf Scheme. Although the final details and the budget have still to be agreed, observed Mr McLaren, there is real scope to encourage recovery in beef calf numbers through innovative thinking, for example by paying a higher rate on additional calves over and above the previous year’s claim.
Mr McLaren also flagged up the significant potential demand from overseas markets for quality, trusted brands such as Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI.
“Export markets offer a significant opportunity for us. Earlier this month, for example, QMS attended the main food trade event in Singapore, as part of a Scottish delegation organised by Scottish Development International and Scotland Food & Drink.
“Singapore has the third highest per capita income in the world and it is not surprising, therefore, that there is a big demand for high quality, premium food products in both the retail and food service sectors.
“What was very evident was the importance placed by consumers in Singapore on sourcing food which has strong ethical credentials - ie grass-fed and produced to high welfare standards without the use of growth hormones.”
He also highlighted the important role many export markets play in maximising returns for the whole carcase as a result of strong demand for fifth quarter products which are much less saleable on the domestic market.
Closer to home, Mr McLaren said the new Food Standards Scotland organisation could facilitate significant opportunities to improve communications between primary processors and livestock producers.
“The new organisation has the potential to create a mechanism which could improve feedback to farmers from abattoirs on the information collected at point of slaughter. With record numbers of animals now showing evidence of liver damage through fluke infestation, this could create significant opportunities to improve efficiency through robust feedback on health information and comparative carcase data,” observed Mr McLaren.