Support for Scots is critical
The need for sustained support to be provided for Scotland's livestock and meat industry must be at the forefront of UK and EU debate over the next few months, says Allan Jess, president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW).
The need for sustained support for Scotland's livestock and meat industry must be at the forefront of UK and EU debate over the next few months, says Allan Jess, president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW).
The SAMW president is particularly concerned that any livestock-related decisions reached in Brussels, as part of the current CAP Health Check, take full account of recent reductions in breeding stock numbers in the UK and the impact that such reductions might have on future meat supplies and prices.
Speaking last week, he challenged the retail end of the meat chain to respond to the current increases in cattle prices by delivering increased returns for quality product.
"While this week's pedigree beef sales in Perth continue to highlight the traditional strengths of Scotland's breeding base, the reality of declining commercial cow numbers must be addressed as a matter of urgency if we're to retain our place in both the domestic and international marketplace," he said.
"The scope for some measure of direct support to be given to selected areas of production certainly exists under EU Article 69, the regulation under which Scotland secured its national beef envelope in 2005.
"Article 69 is also the basis on which several other member states continue to receive targeted support and it's vital that its continued potential in relation to Scottish livestock requirements is explored as part of the Health Check process."
Jess said that SAMW member companies were currently having to deal with tightening supplies of raw materials and rising buying prices, without seeing an equivalent improvement in wholesale or retail values.
"We've already seen the effect of similar retail price resistance in the dairy sector, where a lot of farmers went out of milk before the end-product buyers accepted the need to start paying more," he said.
"Frankly, the increased cattle prices that SAMW member companies are already paying will need to be reflected in an equivalent advance in retail meat values if we're to avoid a repeat of the dairy sector exodus."
Returning to his Health Check theme, Jess added that any further shift in balance between supply and demand in the meat sector could have a massive impact on the marketplace.
"It's vital that those involved in Health Check discussions understand what is at stake before deals are made and national agreements reached," he said.
"At least three Member States have been operating with a degree of coupled livestock support since the completion of the last CAP reform, giving them an advantage over the UK throughout this period.
"We cannot afford a similar poor solution this time around if we're to see this week's breeding investments in Perth realise their potential to the benefit of the whole industry."