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SAMW issue strong CAP message

The stark reality of Scotland’s 60,000-head decline in suckler numbers since 2004 is one of the key reasons for the pressures currently surrounding the country’s meat processing and marketing sectors says Ian Anderson, SAMW executive manager.

“The fall in suckler numbers to around 450,000 has led to a massive increase in procurement costs for abattoirs and butchers,” he told the annual meeting of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association in Perth.  “As a result, cattle prices here have doubled, making Scotch accredited beasts the most expensive in the EU at £4.20 a kilo. That’s generally 80 – 100 pence above anything coming out of Ireland, north or south and is not where any of us want to be.

“Without a decent CAP outcome this is simply not sustainable, despite recent data from QMS showing a 7% growth in retail beef prices in the last 12 months ago.  Such a gain, of course, is swamped by the 15% increase in Scottish producer prices which has taken place over the same period.”

Pointing out that SAMW was firmly in the vanguard of efforts to persuade Government that the current CAP reform must incentivise increased livestock production, and do so urgently, Mr Anderson praised the all-industry stance being taken on this issue.

“One of the most satisfying aspects of recent months has been the commitment from all livestock sector interest groups who are continuing to work together to achieve the best outcome for the supply chain,” he said. “While we are still waiting to see how the Scotland’s Government implements CAP reform in Scotland, some points of value are already clear.

“The demise of payment to slipper farmers is an established priority, and rightly so.

“We also know that coupled support for beef calf production will be greatly increased, I would think at least double the current rate, and tweaked to give greater encouragement to larger producers.

“NSA’s decision not to seek coupled support on sheep also means that the maximum available funding can go solely into beef.”

There must, however, be no letting up in the drive to secure the best CAP outcome for the Scottish meat chain with Scotland’s Government, QMS and the industry all having vital roles to play in the coming months.

“The Cabinet Secretary’s announcement of an initiative to engineer growth in the beef sector is certainly a welcome step,” said Mr Anderson. “It will look at things such as quantity, quality, marketing, knowledge transfer, IT, stimulating confidence among producers, seeking opportunities to increase support under Pillar 2 of the CAP and so on.  These are all vital points.

“For all the pressures currently surrounding our industry, beef remains a jewel in Scotland’s crown, a global status of which we can be justly proud.  It’s a product worth fighting for; produced, processed and marketed by dedicated, hard-working people at every stage in the chain.  Losing 60,000 head in nine years is a big hit to take and we clearly can’t take much more.

“Thankfully, there are some signs that the seriousness of Scotland’s beef sector plight is finally being understood by those in power. As a result, industry and government is working together, fighting back and laying the foundation for what I’m sure we all hope with be a strong and sustainable future.”