With Scotland's sheep industry currently barred from key export markets as a result of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, Quality Meat Scotland is to use funds held in reserve to help the sector secure a bigger hold of the domestic market.
Members of the QMS Board have met with leading members of the Scottish sheep industry to discuss ways of diverting funds to bolster domestic Scotch Lamb marketing activities in the event of the export ban continuing.
QMS statistics show that around one quarter of all Scottish sheep meat produced is exported and the trade is worth £18m annually. The ban on exports comes at a time when the vast majority of Scotland's lamb crop is heading for the food chain. Scottish abattoirs process in the region of 32,000 sheep a week in the month of August. In addition to exports,33% is sold in Scotland and 45% in England and Wales.
Lack of progress in unwinding trading restrictions to the continent could lead to an extra 1.3m British lambs, or a further 25,000t of product, hitting the UK market over the next three months.
QMS Chairman Donald Biggar said: "I am happy to say the Board of QMS has decided on a plan to draw down on reserves to help our sheep sector during this critical time.
"Lamb exports from Scotland currently make up a quarter of all trade and to lose that, even in the short term, is likely to have a severe impact on sheep businesses.
"The reserves will be used to fund a substantial burst of marketing activities during the annual Festival of Scotch Lamb with a view to increasing consumption in what may be a very competitive domestic marketplace and potentially compensating for the loss of any export trade.
"In addition we will continue to press multiple retailers to stick with the industry during this difficult time. There's a lot of support out there from consumers for our industry and we are confident that their backing coupled with effective and timely marketing, can help our sheep sector at their time of need."
QMS's marketing activities complement the work of the Scottish Sheep Strategy, now in its second year, which is targeted at commercial sheep production throughout Scotland with a focus on increasing the use of breeding technologies to improve the quality of the end product and cut costs. It represents a £300,000 investment by QMS in a package of on-farm training, demonstration projects and research.