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by Kate Rowell, Quality Meat Scotland
06 September 2022
Associate Feature: Digging deep in times of disruption

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Associate Feature: Digging deep in times of disruption

Between Brexit, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the turbulence of the Covid pandemic, this period of political uncertainty and significant industry change, has proven not to be temporary.  As a result of the associated challenges facing businesses across the Scottish red meat supply chain, many of the country’s vital food producers could not be condemned for asking: where does this leave us?

The Scottish red meat sector, and those embedded in it, are coming to terms with a somewhat frightening outlook. Russia’s invasion of agricultural powerhouse, Ukraine, has hurled the significant issue of food security into the spotlight, and simultaneously caused a seismic shift in global red meat markets. Whilst not at the record levels of 30 per cent witnessed in May, inflation in agriculture, or ‘agflation’, still sits above 20 per cent, squeezing the margins of farm businesses as feed, fuel and fertiliser prices continue to soar.

With these steep accelerations in costs now baked into the system, long-term cost pressures on inputs are inevitable, contributing to an overall feeling of industry uncertainty. And with many businesses across the supply chain facing significant cash losses in the coming year, many are apprehensive about what the future holds.

QMS’ job remains the same: as the leadership organisation for the sector and custodians of the Quality Assurance scheme, our purpose is to develop, support, promote and protect a profitable and sustainable red meat industry – no matter how tricky the operating environment gets. 
With our new chief executive, Sarah Millar, now at the helm, QMS must steer the sector through this period of unpredictability and beyond, identify opportunities along the way and ensure that red meat producers are continuously supported.

Recently, QMS published the Red Meat Industry Profile, a comprehensive analysis of the current state of the industry in Scotland, uncovering the Scottish livestock sector’s important contribution to the national economy and the UK’s overall levels of self-sufficiency in red meat, amidst concerns around food security. 

With our extensive grassland and natural rainfall, we as a country can produce high quality, high welfare red meat in a way that sustains the landscapes, industry and rural communities while meeting the demands of the modern consumer who seeks strong sustainability credentials when they make purchasing choices. 

With this in mind, The Beef Sector Strategy Steering group, chaired by QMS, launched their sector strategy for 2030 at the return of The Royal Highland Show. This crucial strategy sets out key objectives for the Scottish beef sector to achieve by 2030, building on current strengths, addressing key weaknesses and threats, and identifying innovative opportunities to safeguard a strong future for the industry that is responsible on economic, environmental and social fronts.
We are also thrilled to be searching for the next group of Monitor Farmers to be involved in the highly successful initiative. The new programme will be guided by the farming community and will be aimed at getting ‘under the bonnet’ of farming businesses, analysing and benchmarking business performance, as well as providing innovative research and development. 

Scottish farming has immense potential to become one of the most dynamic, modern, and sustainable systems in the world, and many businesses are already making key changes to their farming systems in order to improve biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions. QMS is looking forward to hosting a parliamentary reception in partnership with SAC Consulting and NFU Scotland on 20 September, to showcase the innovation going on at farm level to tackle climate change.  

There is no doubt that the sector is confronted with unprecedented obstacles and uncertainty, but at a time when national food security cannot be overlooked, Scotland’s world-renowned red meat brands have the potential to be part of the solution. Through collaboration with key industry players, listening to our levy payers and continued efforts to both support them and the end consumer, Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork will remain a staple of Scotland for many years to come.

This article is sponsored by Quality Meat Scotland. This article appears in Holyrood’s Annual Review 2021/22.

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