Scotland urged to set itself ambitious targets

Scotland's red meat industry should set itself ambitious goals once export markets have been re-opened, the country's environmental and rural development minister Ross Finnie insisted at this week's Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) conference in Dundee.

Having noted that Scotland's annual income from beef exports had been approaching £130 million when the EU ban was imposed in March 1996, he added: "It may take some time before our beef exports exceed the £100 million mark, but we have to have ambition." Mr Finnie went on to suggest that a yearly export sales target closer to £200 million was not unreasonable so long as Scotland's red meat industry remained committed to a quality product, strong promotional activity and appropriate pricing. The minister declined to set a timescale for reaching this figure, saying: "I'm confident we can make substantial inroads into Europe - but it isn't going to happen overnight."

QMS interim chairman Donald Biggar said the prospect of Scotland's re-entry into the export markets had boosted levels of optimism within the red meat sector, although he also warned that there was "quite a steep hill to climb" before overseas shipment volumes could recover to pre-ban levels. The Dundee conference, which was entitled "New markets, new challenges, new future", saw the launch of an export strategy document which outlines proposed QMS activities for the next 12 months, all of which will have the aim of rebuilding markets for Scotch beef. The document identifies France, the Benelux countries and Italy as high-priority markets, while Germany and the Nordic countries are categorised as "medium" priority. "A watching brief is recommended for building small volume, high-value beef sales in the new Member States, Middle East and Far East," notes QMS.

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