Speaking at a meeting between SAMW and Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Allan Jess urged the government to address livestock supply pressures with renewed urgency, adding that the already problematic trading conditions look set to worsen in the next 12 to 24 months.
He warned that the sector remained seriously over-regulated: “We are surrounded by outdated controls which bear no relationship to the actual risks faced,” he said, citing tardiness in unravelling the controls introduced because of BSE and the Food Standard Agency’s failure thus far to replace (non - BSE) official controls with a system for today’s purposes.
He also railed against costs of the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD)’s veterinary residue testing, pointing out that, in the last decade, there have been very few residues found at actionable levels in red meat.
“During this time one of our members has been charged well over £500,000 for what was effectively a box-ticking service,” he said. “We have urged VMD for three years to negotiate changes to EU legislation to target their activities where they are finding failures, not at abattoirs.”
However, Jess did admit that SAMW was “encouraged” by the Lochhead’s support for changing the system so it focuses on where risks actually exist, as well as for swifter change to out-dated regulations. He also welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s predictions to mitigate the effects of introducing TB-free status for Scotland and electronic identification of sheep.
“SAMW is grateful, of course, for opportunities such as this to discuss current developments and concerns with the Cabinet Secretary,” said Jess. “It would be less than honest of us to pretend, however, that everything is fine with the industry. It is not.
“Scotland’s meat and livestock sector is at a critical point in its history and it is vital that we face reality and deal with it firmly and effectively. If we don’t, the future decline of income and jobs across Scotland will be felt throughout the entire rural economy. That’s a risk we really can’t take.”