8th September 2020

Publication Highlights Importance of Red Meat Industry to Scotland’s Economy

The Scottish red meat sector’s continuing importance to Scotland’s economy, as well as the significance of markets outside Scotland to the country’s farmers and red meat processors, has been highlighted in a publication launched today by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

The latest edition of the Scottish Red Meat Industry Profile covers the 2019 calendar year, providing a snapshot of the shape and scale of Scotland’s red meat sector. 

The publication reports that farm output from cattle, sheep and pig production totalled £1.17bn in 2019 and accounted for just under 35% of Scotland’s agricultural output, with the beef sector accounting for just under 24% alone.

Meanwhile, the primary red meat processing sector is estimated to have generated £783.5m of revenue, employed around 3,000 workers and spent £72m on salaries. 

Access to skilled labour from the EU remained vital for many processors, accounting for an estimated 43% of the workforce.

Survey information also highlights the importance of the rest of the UK market to the Scottish red meat processing sector, with an estimated 64% of revenue generated there, compared to 25% from a first point of delivery in Scotland. 

In some instances, this is part of a wider supply chain where beef, lamb and pork are delivered to processing and packing sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland before returning to Scotland in shelf-ready retail packs or will be exported from there.

“With the end of the Brexit transition on the horizon, it is important to note the value of export markets to the Scottish red meat processing sector, with 11% of total revenue estimated to have been generated overseas,” said Iain Macdonald, Senior Economics Analyst with QMS. 

“However, the sheepmeat processing sector is particularly exposed, with 29.5% of revenue earned outside the UK, highlighting its potential exposure to any market disruption from the beginning of 2021. 

“Survey evidence highlights that around 97-98% of beef and lamb export sales were generated from customers in the EU in 2018/19,” he added.

The importance of markets in the rest of the UK and the EU is also highlighted by Scottish lamb consumption per person remaining at below half of the UK average, resulting in Scottish abattoir production being an estimated 228% of local consumption in 2019, while on-farm production was estimated to have been 567% of consumption.

Looking at imports, at UK level, after significant growth in beef imports to the UK in recent years, weak demand and rising domestic production resulted in lower requirements in 2019.  Similar pressures also led to lower pigmeat imports. 

Reduced lamb imports were the continuation of a longer-term trend, with New Zealand shifting focus away from Europe towards China. 

“Domestic production growth, sluggish home demand and a weak sterling continued to support the profitability of the export trade in 2019, with pork exports benefitting from a meat shortage in China,” added Mr Macdonald.   

The Scottish Red Meat Industry Profile can be viewed here.

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