Red meat sector vital to economy

The red meat industry is a vital part of England’s economy, making a net contribution of £1.75bn and supporting close to a million jobs, a new study has revealed.

The Real Value of Red Meat report, which was presented to Farming Minister Jim Paice, MPs and peers at Westminster this week, revealed that the economy would stand to lose £760m of income per year and £906m in contributions to employment in the absence of an English red meat industry.

Produced by Matrix Evidence on behalf of Bpex and Eblex, the report looked at the value the red meat sector brings to the economy, its contribution to employment and its land use value compared to viable alternative uses. It found that 96,000 people are currently employed on beef cattle, sheep and pig farms in England — the large majority of which are located in rural areas. Based on the re-employment rate calculated by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), it predicted that just over 20% of these employees would face unemployment if the industry were to cease.

The loss of domestic industry would also have an effect on allied industries, such as pre-farming, meat processing and retail, which currently employ more than 772,000 people, it said.

With 2.6m hectares currently used to farm cattle, sheep and pigs, the report estimated that the industry delivers a further £79m of annual benefits as a result of reduced CO2 emissions, reduced need for land management and reduced use of fertilisers compared to other viable land uses. It also pointed out that the red meat industry makes a significant contribution to the country’s self-sufficiency and food security.

Welcoming the report, Paice said: “This report proves what we already know — that the red meat industry is a crucial part of our economy. With the global population growing fast, demand for protein is soaring and Britain has huge opportunities to export our high-quality meat and breeding stock to the world.
“The sector really can generate significant economic growth and jobs, and that is why this government is freeing up business from unnecessary burdens and getting them the right support.”

Graham Stuart MP (Con, Beverley and Holderness) added: “As policy-makers, it is crucial that we work hard to ensure we maintain a vibrant and successful rural economy, and recognise the role that a strong and profitable farming sector plays in giving rural communities a sense of cohesion and pride.”

The report is the first of its kind to look at the net contribution of the industry and paint a realistic picture of what might happen if it were lost. Dr Kevin Marsh, Matrix chief economist and co-author of the study, said: “Matrix’s analysis demonstrates that the red meat industry makes a significant contribution to the English economy; an annual net contribution of £1.75bn. This is as comprehensive and robust an estimate as possible, based on the data available from bodies such as Defra and the ONS, and follows HM Treasury guidance for economic analysis.”

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