22 March 2002

Scot beef ruling cost to farmers

By Shelley Wright

Scotland correspondent

SCOTLANDs beef producers could lose more than £50m/year if the controversial 90-day Scotch beef rule is ditched, says a leading Scottish meat trader.

But NFU Scotland president Jim Walker dismisses the claims.

Brian Pack, chief executive of ANM Group, Scotlands largest farmer-owned auction and meat processing business, believes that moves to allow only cattle born, reared and slaughtered in Scotland to qualify for the Specially Selected Scotch beef label will cost farmers dear.

He said 80,000 cattle/year that were currently bought outside Scotland and then finished by Scottish producers would lose the right to be sold under the premium "Scotch" label.

As well as the £56m plus that producers stand to lose from that, according to Mr Packs figures, the loss to the Scottish economy will be even higher when the added value from further processing is taken into account.

"It is understandable that a number of breeders believe they personally will be much better off if Scotch beef has to be from cattle born in Scotland," said Mr Pack.

"However, there is no doubt that a substantial reduction in the output of the Scotch industry will have major implications for all involved. The Scotch brand will become a small niche brand with no opportunity, because of restrictions on suckler cow quota, to expand to meet any growth in the market."

Describing the move as absolute nonsense, Mr Pack said: "It is an own goal to the Scottish economy."

But Mr Walker, speaking during the unions annual conference in St Andrews last week, said that even Mr Packs "aura of invincibility" in the meat trade could not contradict the reality of the figures provided by the British Cattle Movement Service.

"Brian Pack can say whatever he wants, but he cannot dispute BCMS figures. Large numbers of cattle certainly come to Scotland for slaughter, but fewer than 30,000 of them were slaughtered in 2001 under the 90-day Specially Selected Scotch label. Thats about 6% of the total and is nothing to panic about," said Mr Walker.

Dropping the 90-day rule was essential because consumers believed that "Specially Selected Scotch" meant animals were born, reared and killed in Scotland.

"The absolute priority is to protect the brand," said Mr Walker. "So if thats what consumers believe, then that is exactly what we must give them." &#42