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Choice on EU must not damage Scotland’s meat export progress

Scotland’s meat wholesalers have warned that whatever decision is reached on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, it must not be allowed to damage export links for Scotch beef and lamb, which are currently worth around £75 million to the Scottish meat and livestock industry.

Commenting during a visit to the Royal Highland Show by EU farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, SAMW highlighted the hard work done by its member companies to develop exports across Europe in recent years, adding that close attention needs to be paid now to ensuring such efforts aren’t “wasted” in the years ahead.

“As a membership organisation, we are obviously neutral concerning the promised referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU,” said SAMW president, Alan McNaughton. “At the same time, however, we have very strong views on how the red meat sector may be affected by whichever route is chosen for the UK in the future.

“In 2014, for example, an estimated 98% of all Scottish beef and lamb exports went to Europe, at a gross value of about £75m. That is equivalent to about 9% of the sector’s turnover. This trade is particularly important for sheepmeat, accounting for more than a quarter of ex-abattoir production. The trade is less significant for beef but is nonetheless important in terms of market diversification.

“In addition, many of our member companies have been working hard and investing heavily in recent years to further develop exports to the EU. This effort must not be wasted.

“The EU is obviously also well advanced in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US, a process which comes on top of the current clearing of practical standards for UK beef exports to start flowing back into the US. Here again, it is vital that whatever future route the UK takes in relation to the EU, our members would not want to see export opportunities being lost.”