SAMW urges Scottish Government to guarantee beef finisher returns
The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) has written to the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, urging him to put measures in place to ensure Scotland’s beef farmers are guaranteed a return of above £3.60 per kilo for all properly finished and marketed cattle.
The letter, penned as a follow-up to the recent beef summit, hosted by Mr Ewing in Stirling, acknowledges that there are ‘no easy solutions’ to the task of retaining beef cattle numbers on Scotland’s farms at current levels. SAMW also states, however, that with world wholesale prices currently being so low, and competition so high, the processing sector is simply unable to pay any more for livestock.
In seeking a short-term solution to current pricing issues, therefore, SAMW adds: “We believe that to ensure farmers do not continue to lose money, the returns achieved for finished cattle need to be above £3.60 per kilo.
“When, as now, the market is depressed we would contend that the convergence funding promised by the Prime Minister should be used by the Scottish Government to fund a short term support scheme to top up farmers’ market returns, provided his/her cattle hit the correct specification, i.e. within a weight range 280 kilos to 360 kilos and grades O+4L, R3, R4L, U3 or U4L.
“This would allow cattle finishers to be able to buy store cattle, knowing they have a guaranteed finished price for all cattle that are in the right specification to what the consumer wants. Compliance with these parameters could be monitored via the Bovine EID database.
“Such an approach would bring much needed stability to production volumes and restore confidence within the industry.”
Unfair inspection costs
The letter also deals with the current ‘unfair inspections’ cost burden which is placed on red meat processing but which doesn’t apply to other protein sectors.
On this point, SAMW expresses ‘deep concern’ that the present charging regime, as applied by Food Standards Scotland (FSS), requires the red and white meat processing sectors to contribute towards FSS running costs while many other suppliers of protein don’t have to pay for the same service.
It is ‘inherently unfair and unreasonable to only recover these substantial inspections costs from two specific parts of the wider food supply industry’ added SAMW, pointing out that other suppliers of protein either pay very little, or nothing at all, for their in-plant inspections.