Speaking at the SFMTA AGM in Perth, SFMTA president Billy McFarlane said it had not been an easy year for the trade, with rising beef prices, strong lamb prices and increasing overhead costs creating pressure on margins. He said that he was astonished at the prices even relatively small beasts were achieving. He said: “It leads me to have concerns over the price we might be paying for beef before too long.”
Livestock convenor Alan Kennedy expressed his concern that a chronic shortage of quality livestock had pushed prices up 27% over the last year, but said that because the multiples were beginning to realise that prices had to rise, the playing field was beginning to level. However, he warned that the rocketing prices of lamb had demonstrated that there was a level in both retail and catering beyond which consumers were not prepared to spend.
He said: “Even in the warm weather, the everyday cuts continue to rise. This demonstrates that consumers are definitely cutting back on ‘luxury’ spending, both domestically and when eating out. The poor summer no doubt had some part in this, but the trend is definitely towards better value cuts of meat. This is especially clear when looking at mincing and stewing cuts, heel muscles (mince), showing a rise of 28% since March 2010, and stew (chucks) a rise of 22.5% over the same period.
“Striploin has also shown a sharp rise, up from 900p/kg in March 2010 to 1,380p/kg now, a rise of 35%, reflecting a swing away from fillet as the steak of choice — again, price-driven.”
Also speaking at the AGM, Nigel Miller, president of the National Farming Union Scotland, warned that the Scottish government’s plans to increase tree-planting in Scotland as part of climate change measures was a threat to the meat and farming industry. He said that the only viable place to plant trees was where cattle and sheep were currently farmed, and could amount to as much as 50%.