A new era for livestock production in Scotland could well be the outcome as trepidation about the impact of CAP reform is steadily replaced by a more focused, driven industry, according to Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
Addressing a packed QMS industry breakfast on the opening morning of the Royal Highland Show, Mr McLaren said the sense of trepidation in recent times had been particularly keenly felt in the beef sector, where most analysis of the predicted CAP changes suggested a significant reduction in payments by the end of the transition period.
“We now have much more clarity on the way forward and I am confident in our producers’ ability to get to grips with what the changes will mean for their individual businesses.
While recognising the many challenges the industry faces, Mr McLaren said the long-term prospects for the Scottish red meat industry remain very positive.
“Global demand continues to grow for the top quality Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork we produce and this week’s announcement on negotiations to open up the China market for beef, are further evidence of that.”
Mr McLaren, who is chairman of the Beef 2020 group set up by the Scottish Government at the end of last year, warmly welcomed the £45 million “Beef improvement Package” announced by Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, last week, in response to recommendations by the Group.
“This measure, along with the increased targeting and funding associated with the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme and the additional top-up for calves born on the islands, will help to mitigate some of the worst effects of the support reductions for beef farmers,” observed Mr McLaren.
He also welcomed the recognition of the diversity which exists within hill and upland areas and the decision to split rough grazing into two categories.
“A well-designed Voluntary Coupled Support (VCS) scheme for sheep should mean that the hard-working extensive hill farmer should not be disadvantaged.Furthermore, the addition of a coupled support scheme for sheep, targeted at the most fragile areas of the country should help to maintain stock numbers in these areas where sheep production plays an important role in social and economic sustainability.”
The Beef 2020 Group was, he reminded, not set up to recommend CAP Pillar 1 measures but has its remit restricted to Pillar 2 and beyond that to the much wider industry opportunities for change which undoubtedly exist.
“The Beef 2020 vision is one of a confident market-driven grass-based cattle industry using leading edge technologies capable of delivering profitably to the home and world market high provenance, quality beef from sustainable production systems,” he said.
The Beef 2020 report works on three clear steps – establishing the “concepts for change” followed by “the action required to deliver that change” and then “the specific recommendations around those actions”.“The recommendations we have put forward have very clear ownership and time parameters and include the creation of an integrated and easily accessible database and the adoption of a full bovine EID system at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Mr McLaren.
“We are also recommending the establishment of a sustainability index in response to the growing demands for sustainable food.
“Another key recommendation is for significant increases in supply chain collaboration as well as the encouragement of better market signals and a pricing system for cattle which more accurately reflects the value of the carcass.”
The draft Beef 2020 report has been submitted to the Rural Affairs Secretary and the full report is scheduled for launch this summer.