The Scottish red meat industry has all the right ingredients for a strong future despite its challenges and the evolving Brexit situation, according to Alan Clarke, Chief Executive of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
Speaking at the launch of QMS’s Annual Review 2016/17, Mr Clarke said that since joining QMS this summer, he has made a point of getting out and about to meet those working in each part of the red meat chain in Scotland.
“What quickly became apparent is that this is an industry like no other. Those working in it have a huge amount of passion, pride and professionalism and work incredibly hard to produce the beef, lamb and pork which has earned a place at the top of the global menu,” said Mr Clarke.
“The industry has also had the foresight to embrace opportunities such as world-leading whole-chain, whole-of-life quality assurance and a commitment to animal welfare.
“We also have strong sustainability credentials and a willingness to embrace new ideas and technology. These are strengths which will prevail no matter what unfolds in the months ahead in terms of the emerging Brexit situation.”
One area where he said he believed there is real potential to take the industry to a new level relates to the way in which different parts of the red meat chain engage and communicate with each other.
“The political landscape is changing and there are many unknowns and uncertainties, however, it is business as usual until the full extent of Brexit is known.
“While we continue to plan and prepare it is important the red meat industry continues to focus on their businesses and opportunities to improve profitability and efficiency,” said Mr Clarke.
QMS’s strategy is “to shape a sustainable and prospering Scottish red meat industry” and, he said, in the post-Brexit era the role of QMS will be more vital than ever.
QMS has, he observed, a unique footprint including farmers, auctioneers, feed suppliers, hauliers, primary processors, secondary processors, food service providers, butchers, retailers, chefs and consumers.
“Our activities are much more wide-ranging than perhaps is understood, he said, and include marketing, quality assurance, health and education, economics and industry development.
“More than 77% of external levy spend is on customer and consumer-facing activities, primarily marketing and promotion and we will continue to look at ways to most effectively promote our high-quality brands,” he added.
Looking to the organisation’s financial position, Mr Clarke emphasised that a priority for every member of staff working at QMS was to ensure value for money for every pound of levy income spent.
During the year to 31st March 2017 the organisation’s total income was £6.4 million (compared with £6.3 million in 2016). Income from the statutory red meat levy for the year was just under £4 million, just very slightly down on the previous year.
Turning to the detail of QMS’s financial accounts, Mr Clarke observed that during the year under review more than £900,000 of income from grants was used to deliver qualifying activities, an increase of 15% on the previous year.
Grants remain a vital addition to QMS income, added Mr Clarke, pointing out that QMS staff work hard to secure this important additional funding to support the work it undertakes on behalf of the Scottish red meat industry.