AN £800,000 three-year project to promote farm and food quality assurance in the Highlands and Islands was launched on Tuesday in Inverness by Scottish farm minister, Lord Sewel.
The scheme will receive £340,000 of grant aid from the EU Objective 1 scheme, with the rest of the money coming from farmers and businesses in the food supply chain. It will be managed by the Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association, which organises farm assurance of beef and lamb in Scotland.
"The project will ensure that producers in the Highlands and Islands, particularly small and predominantly store producers, are able to participate fully in SQBLAs farm assurance arrangements and share in the benefits of more co-ordinated marketing," said Lord Sewel.
SQBLA chairman, John Ross, said the area produced 60% of Scotlands store cattle and sheep. More than 2300 farmers and crofters were already members of the farm assurance scheme and the initiative aimed to double that number, as well as recruiting many others in the food chain.
Fraser Morrison, chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said livestock production was the mainstay of agriculture in the area, supporting 7000 jobs and with £200m of output. *