UK - The Scottish red meat industry has been through a period of challenge and change but the signals are now encouraging for the industry’s long-term outlook, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) Chairman, Jim McLaren.
Speaking at a media briefing on QMS’s planned activities for the year ahead, Mr McLaren urged beef producers to focus on the aspects of their business profitability and efficiency which they can control.
“There will always be factors which influence the profitability of livestock farming which are outwith the control of producers such as CAP reform and currency fluctuations.
“The challenge for the industry looking forward is to avoid being distracted or undermined by those areas, and instead focus our energy on the aspects of our businesses where improvements can be made,” said Mr McLaren.
The practical implementation of the Beef 2020 proposals, confirmed by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead in recent weeks, offers a major opportunity for Scotland’s beef industry, he said.
Mr McLaren is chairing the core implementation group which will deliver the Beef 2020 package of activity including a national livestock database and support for farmers to identify the key actions they are going to take on-farm including measures to improve cow fertility, reduce disease, optimise nutrition through feed analysis and maximise grass and soil management.
The cattle database will be backed by the £45 million Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) beef support package announced by the Rural Affairs Secretary last year.
“The driving ethos behind the Beef 2020 package of activity is to build resilience in our industry and I firmly believe we can move forward with a new level of positivity,” he said.
Mr McLaren said he was pleased to have welcomed three new QMS board members who have taken their places on the board this month – Jock Gibson, Kate Rowell and Scott Henderson.
“The diversity of the QMS board is one of its key strengths and I look forward to the contributions these new individuals will bring.
“Another important change for QMS followed a review of the work of the QMS industry development team which is now sharply focused on grassroots activity to assist the industry to maximise efficiency and profitability.
“Helping our industry reach a point where there is sufficient profitability in livestock rearing to reverse the prolonged decline in livestock numbers, remains a key priority.”
“We have a number of other excellent projects in the pipeline to be launched in the coming months. Key to the success of these activities is the willingness of farmers to share with others how they manage their businesses and we are very grateful to all of those who give up their time to do so.
The renewed focus within the future Scottish Rural Development Programme on knowledge transfer and innovation is, said Mr McLaren, in line with QMS’s focus on practical projects to improve efficiency and bottom line.
’Uel Morton, QMS Chief Executive, said the organisation was in good shape to deliver strongly on behalf of levy-payers.
Mr Morton said he was pleased to note that grant income sourced by the organisation for the year past was £1.25m which he said was a tremendous boost to QMS’s activities for the industry.
He was hopeful the trend of declining levy income has slowed with positive signals including the current redevelopment of the pig processing plant at Brechin and the creation of a new abattoir in Inverurie, though he said the full impact of CAP implementation on overall livestock numbers was as yet unknown.
However, he emphasised that QMS is continuing to press the case for the return of the levy - amounting to over one million pounds each year - lost south of the border as a result of livestock being slaughtered outwith Scotland.
Looking in more detail at the organisation’s finances, he said: “Our proposed external spend for the 2015/16 year is £5.2m and this compares with an external spend of £5.6m for 2014/15.
“We have application pending for marketing and industry development grant funding and we are hopeful these will be successful to allow us to maximise the effectiveness and reach of our activities.”