Quality Meat Scotland highlights Brexit challenges and opportunities

A new paper has put the challenges and opportunities of leaving the European Union under the microscope. 

The publication focuses on three key areas concerning the trade of red meat from Scotland: access to the EU market; access to non-EU markets; and managing imports.

“As with any major change, the prevailing uncertainty about the impact of Brexit is unwelcome for the Scottish red meat industry, as it is for many other UK industries for which exports play a key role,” said Jim McLaren, QMS chairman.

“Quality Meat Scotland’s economics services team is producing a series of briefing notes looking at the impact of Brexit on our industry. The first looks at the challenges and opportunities for the trade in red meat from Scotland as a result of Brexit.”

The Scottish red meat industry contributes a total of £2 billion to the country’s economy every year and provides an estimated 50,000 jobs.

Typically speaking, just under a quarter (23%) of annual turnover from Scottish abattoirs is from meat sales to customers inside Scotland. In comparison, two-thirds of the turnover is due to sales to customers in the rest of the UK and 10% is from international sales, over 90% of which is from EU member states. The paper recognised that trade to countries outside Scotland is “fundamental” in securing the long-term sustainability of the Scottish red meat industry.

The report claimed: “Over the past three years, on average 15% of UK beef production, 36% of sheepmeat production and 25% of pigmeat is exported. The European Union dominates this international trade with, over the past three years, on average 94% of the UK’s beef exports, 88% of sheepmeat exports and three-quarters of the fresh and frozen pigmeat exports going to the EU.”

EU member states have unrestricted free access to the whole of the EU market. Countries that are not part of the union and don’t have preferential access to the market face punitive tariffs.

If Scotland did not have free access to the EU, exporters would face the following tariff rates on exports of whole carcases (based on average export prices of UK shipments to the EU for the first eight months of 2016):

92% on a beef carcase
45% on a lamb carcase
53% on a pig carcase

“The information contained in this report makes clear that losing the full and free access to this market that full membership of the EU brings is a considerable threat, with UK meat exporters potentially facing punitive tariffs and substantial market disruption,” McLaren explained.

“The document also makes it clear that opportunities to build and improve market access to capture recognised opportunities outside the EU will take time and significant resources.”

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