WITH all the challenges of recent months, it is difficult for Scottish livestock producers to focus on the many longer-term opportunities open to the Scottish red meat industry.
Speaking today (April 16 2012) at a media briefing on Quality Meat Scotland’s (QMS) planned activities for the year ahead, Jim McLaren, QMS chair, recognised the substantial challenges sheep, cattle and pig producers have been facing in recent months.
“The extreme weather, particularly over the past year, has created real problems for our industry, hitting winter forage production, lamb numbers and substantially delaying the marketing of tens of thousands of lambs,” said Mr McLaren.
“On top of that the worst of the heavy snowfalls in late-March occurred in parts of the country with a high proportion of Scotland’s breeding flock at a time when lambing was getting underway.”
Liver Fluke had also caused major problems, said Mr McLaren, with some producers reporting very high losses due to the disease which has been thriving in the wet conditions.
“Figures from the National Fallen Stock Company reveal an initial assessment of sheep losses for January 2013 to the end of March 2013 which is almost 22 per cent up compared with the previous year. These figures will not include the majority of losses from the most badly hit regions as snow would still have been covering animals.
“Without question this is heart-breaking for hard-working farmers and the impact on stock numbers going forward is a grave concern for our industry at a time when critical mass of animals is crucial to ensure profitability in the red meat production chain.”
However, Mr McLaren urged producers to look to the long-term saying he had no doubts the future for the Scottish industry is very positive.
“The horsemeat issue which has been dominating our headlines over recent months has raised the profile of the fantastic story our industry has to tell in terms of the world-leading quality assurance behind our labels.
“Beef producers are currently receiving record prices and consumer trust in the Scotch brand has been reinforced and there are exciting opportunities for labels with such strong premium credentials on the global export scene.”
’Uel Morton, QMS chief executive, said the organisation was in good shape to deliver strongly on behalf of levy-payers. This has been confirmed by a recent bench-making exercise comparing the performance of QMS with other similar levy-funded organisations.
Mr Morton said he was pleased to note that grant income sourced by the organisation had, for the first time, topped £1 million during the previous year.
However, he warned that income from levy was being eroded by a combination of falling livestock numbers and sheep and pigs being slaughtered south of the border, saying QMS would continue to press the case with ministers for the return of this lost levy, amounting to around £1.5 million each year.
Looking in more detail at the organisation’s finances, he said: “Our proposed external spend for the 2013/14 year is £6.22m and this compares with a budgeted external spend of £6.18m for 2012/13.
“The actual external spend for 2012/13, however, will be lower than that as some pig and other activity was reduced in the wake of the closure of Broxburn and the projected reduction in levy income.”
Mr Morton said the £1 million funding package to strengthen the Scotch brand announced by the Scottish Government in February would be allocated as follows: £390,000 on Scotch brand strengthening activities (including developing a brand licensing scheme for UK supply chains); £250,000 on lamb activities (to support brand marketing in existing markets and new market development); £200,000 on pork marketing activities; and £160,000 on a three year pig production resource efficiency programme.