The loss of Scotland’s agricultural shows this year is a huge blow to the farming sector and has left many of the smaller events concerned about the future, says Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) Chair, Kate Rowell.
She adds that this year, the team at Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) will greatly miss the opportunity to engage directly with farmers. “Shows including the Royal Highland Show provide and excellent platform to meet farmers, listen to concerns and talk about the work QMS is undertaking.
“Not wanting to lose the valuable two-way dialogue, we’ve taken to our phones since lockdown, speaking to farmers the length and breadth of the country to hear how Covid-19 is affecting them. It’s certainly not a replacement to meeting in person, however it’s been both important and very informative.”
Mrs Rowell explains that the overarching sentiment they’ve heard is “the recognition that, while there have been many challenges, our sector has been more fortunate than many other industries. Many have expressed thanks to the government, QMS, the marts and abattoirs for their part in keeping the red meat supply chain operating, particularly given news from countries like the US, where many processing facilities have closed.”
While farming operations have largely continued as normal, allowing primary food production to continue, it’s not surprising that the economic reality, and issues around low margins from livestock production, are still very real and never too far from the forefront of farmers’ minds, she notes.
“For many, we’ve heard that their thoughts are now turning to post-Covid, the “green recovery”, “Brexit” and what the “new normal” may be.”
Mrs Rowell adds: “Many expressed hope, as well as the need to try and ensure that the public’s increased awareness of food supply chains will translate into long-term sourcing of local food whenever possible.
“One farmer said that the public do not need to applaud farmers just now, but rather to support us by buying local after lockdown ends.”
The calls have highlighted the that many Scottish farmers also say they need more clarity on what a tailored support package might be to replace the current CAP schemes.
“A number have mentioned the fall in global greenhouse gas emissions during the pandemic, suggesting that, as an industry, it’s starkly clear that this has happened while farming and food production has continued. They all suggested that the timing could be crucial for livestock producers, and the wider farming sector, in informing positive debate about farming’s role in climate change mitigation, rather than denigrating agriculture as being responsible for it.”
QMS is working in collaboration with key stakeholders to form a strategy for local supply on shelf both supporting farmers and the environment.
In addition to working on supporting local supply, a major GB national consumer campaign encouraging consumers to “Make It” with red meat, will run from mid-May in partnership with AHDB and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC). The £1.2 million campaign is a joint response by all three organisations to promote the high value cuts, such as steaks and roasts, again tackling carcase balance challenges.
“Those who have seen or heard the ‘Make It’ promotion for Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork on TV, radio and social media, have been very supportive. We have wholehearted recognition on every phone call about the need to raise awareness of our Scotch meat brands, particularly by sharing on social media.
“The parting words from two farmers resonated the most with me and the wider team, we are all in this together and we need to pull together until we get out the other side,” Mrs Rowell concludes.