OUTPUT FROM Scotland‘s beef and sheep farmers rose last year, despite the uncertainties over CAP reform.

Jim Walker, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, unveiled the figures at the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers annual meeting in Perth.

“Despite a year of often difficult trading conditions and uncertainty caused by changes to EU support regimes, it is encouraging that the throughput of the industry has not only been maintained, it is actually up on 2003,” said Mr Walker.

Beef production in 2004 rose by 2% on the year to 167,000 tonnes, while sheep meat was up 3% to 30,000 tonnes. Pig meat remained unchanged at 58,000 tonnes.

“Consumer demand in the UK for red meat has grown steadily during the past ten years and there are no signs of a let up,” Mr Walker said.

“The fastest growing sector is the ready meals market, last year growing at a rate of 14% a year. These are encouraging signs for this important sector of the Scottish economy.

“Beef producers and processors will also look forward to the re-opening of export markets, which are crucial to the sectors‘ further development.”