Tackling the stagnation of Scottish farm productivity needs prompt action, not more words or further industry analysis, says the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW).

“The Royal Highland Show has often been the launch-pad for new farming initiatives but this week’s event needs instead to be a dynamic launch-pad for decisive and positive action,” said SAMW President, Frank Clark.

“The recently published agricultural champions report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, said it all in terms of where we currently are as an industry and where we need to get to over the next five to 10 years to secure a sustainable and profitable future for all parts of the supply chain. It also acknowledged that we’ve had too many reports in the past which have contained excellent recommendations but which haven’t always been actioned. As we hurtle towards an uncertain post-Brexit world we simply can’t afford to make the same mistakes again.”

SAMW has been calling for government action to arrest the decline in livestock numbers for a number of years but still with no sign of any sustained improvement in output.

“Thankfully, the ag-champs report hit this issue head-on, using the word ‘stagnation’ to describe the current state of Scottish farm productivity,” said Mr Clark. “It also called for a mind-set change across Scottish agriculture with future funding being targeted to produce results in a progressive, entrepreneurial and resilient manner.

“In addition, dealing specifically with farm output stagnation, the ag-champs said that future income support measures should include headage payments, where appropriate, alongside a major new focus on policies and schemes to support production efficiency. Cutting current levels of wastage due to avoidable animal diseases and production inefficiency was also rightly highlighted as areas which can and should improve.

“Another quote from the report, stated that ‘this time the Scottish Government, with potentially fewer restrictions on its actions in future, has the opportunity to take forward our recommendations and, working with the industry, make a real difference’.

“We could spend a lot more time discussing the details of all this, of course, including who might win and who might lose as a result. For once, however, let’s just get on with it.

“SAMW certainly agrees with that sentiment. We are at pivotal stage for our industry and Ministers and policy makers must grasp the nettle with both hands. As a result, the 2018 Royal Highland Show will hopefully go down in history as the turning point when Scottish livestock production started to grow again. However, if that doesn’t happen, and the stagnation of our flagship livestock sector is allowed go unchecked, we could be looking at the Ingliston showground hosting a much smaller gathering in future years.”

NFU Scotland yesterday met with the SAMW to discuss the need for stability and profitability for the Scottish livestock sector going forward.

The meeting followed the SAMW Annual Conference in April at which there was concern over declining livestock numbers in Scotland. With total abattoir throughput in overall decline in recent years, and continued challenges to farm and croft profitability, SAMW and NFUS believe there’s a clear need for the government to commit to industry in the long-term to ensure stability, given the continuing uncertainty over Brexit.

NFUS and SAMW agreed that the industry must work together to identify opportunities while continuing to promote the positive credentials of Scottish livestock production.

Speaking following the meeting, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “It’s clear that all parts of the chain are concerned about the on-going uncertainty over the future of trade and government support. Despite the reasonable stability over the last decade we have seen livestock numbers falling as a general trend.

“Livestock production continues to bring significant economic benefits to the communities of rural Scotland and I believe should play a significant part in Scotland’s ambition of achieving £30 billion food and drink industry turnover by 2030. For this to happen we need to see Government work with industry to bolster Scottish production if we are to stop the decline in livestock numbers in lieu of greater imports from elsewhere.”

SAMW President Frank Clark said “While our members remain optimistic about the future and continue to invest heavily in both processing facilities and sales initiatives, recent trends show we need a step change in collaboration and support to reverse the continued decline in Scottish cattle numbers.

“We need the Scottish Government and its Agriculture Champions to explore new, innovative and forward-thinking proposals that will incentivise farmers to rebuild their herds, ensuring that production is no longer stuck in decline. Without such action, Scotland’s farmers and processors will find themselves facing an increasingly intense period of post-Brexit meat trade competition without the raw materials to either secure sales domestically or contest for business in the international marketplace.

“If we are to truly benefit from the premium nature of Scottish beef, we need to see an increased all-industry focus on production, fully supported by dedicated government resources.”

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May 2, 2018
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The urgent need for ‘Brexit Now’ certainty and a call for combined government and industry action to reverse the decline in livestock numbers were the dominant issues tackled by SAMW president, Frank Clark, during his address to the Association’s annual conference in Glasgow on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Tell us NOW! Responding to the conference [...]

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Seven new sponsors will be involved in this year’s annual SAMW conference and dinner in Glasgow on April 21, alongside 14 companies who have given valued support to the association over many years. The newcomers are: University of Bristol Vet School, Dalziel Group, Levy & McRae, Margaret Hodge Recruitment, Merit Projects, Robert Burns and UV- [...]

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