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Excessive cost rise impacts Scottish meat chain

Scotland’s meat industry is at risk of being rendered ‘uncompetitive’ in comparison to the rest of the UK by the imposition of huge cost increases by Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

An April 1st price hike by FSS of 20% for the provision of Official Veterinarians (OVs) and a 17% rise in the cost of Meat Hygiene Inspectors (MHIs) has been described as excessive and unacceptable by the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW).

“The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in England and Wales is, in contrast, raising its OV rate by 4% and MHI rate by 10%, leaving both charges well below the levels our members are being required to pay,” said SAMW President, Ian Bentley. “If the FSS increases are allowed to stand without any abatement, they will impact our businesses, the staff our members employ and the wider farm-based rural economy from which we draw our raw materials.”

SAMW has discussed the issue with senior staff at FSS and written to the Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Jenni Minto, warning that the planned 20% and 17% cost increases ‘will have a detrimental effect on the industry’ to the extent of ‘jeopardising’ member businesses ‘competitiveness and sustainability’.

Ian Bentley


“Individual members are shocked at the level of OV and MHI increases they are now facing, especially when compared to their own efforts to keep processing plant cost rises closer to the 4% level which FSA is achieving,” said Mr Bentley.

One business owner said he would never be able to negotiate a 20% rise with his own customers and would never accept such an approach from a commercial supplier.  Another business executive commented that if FSS was his supplier in the commercial world then it wouldn’t be his supplier anymore.

“We understand the pressures under which FSS has been operating, with its need to absorb the Scottish Government’s civil service wage rise of 7% for 2023/24 and the introduction of a 35-hour-week from October this year,” said Mr Bentley. “According to FSS, this equates to a cost recovery requirement of £424,000.

“Our members are perfectly happy for the Scottish Government to takes such steps, of course, especially if they can fund the increased costs.  We just don’t see why we should pay for them.

“The other major cost increase, as identified by FSS, relates to difficulties it has experienced in recruiting sufficient OVs and MHIs to operate the statutory controls in Scottish red meat plants. While, ideally, these posts should be filled by employed staff, FSS has relied ‘as a temporary measure’ on agency and locum staff at an additional cost to their budget of £407,000.

“Here again, member companies do not see why they should be required to pay for this ‘temporary’ cost, caused by the described recruitment ‘difficulties’.”

Scotland’s red meat sector benefits from an annual discount of statutory charges, worth £1.07 million, a measure which acknowledges the industry’s contribution of £1 billion a year to the Scottish economy and a direct employment base of over 3000 people.

“We firmly believe therefore that a strong rationale exists for the industry discount to be temporarily increased to offset the £831,000 added burden we are currently facing, a request we have already made to the Scottish Government,” said Mr Bentley.

“We are also seeking, even at this 11th hour, a postponement of the April 1st increases to allow the matter to be examined and discussed in greater detail than has been possible since the 20% and 17% figures were presented to us on March 7.”