Abattoirs and meat processors are facing significant pressure on cash flows after the Food Standards Agency suddenly slashed its payment terms for meat inspection services.
Firms will have just 10 days to settle their bills with the FSA, instead of the 30-day system that has been in operation for decades.
The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers said the FSA had taken the move without any consultation with slaughterers.
“Frankly, this is an insult to the industry,” said SAMW president Alan Craig. “The FSA obviously has to have a debt recovery system, but to change a process that has been in operation for 20 years without so much as a phone call is an absolute disgrace.
“To also short-circuit the route to legal action, treating all payers, good, bad and indifferent, exactly the same, shows how seriously out of touch FSA is with this industry of ours.
“The Government has made many encouraging comments in recent months about its determination to assist small and medium size businesses in the current difficult trading environment. Clearly, the FSA isn’t on the same page, as its message to the industry is entirely negative,” said Mr Craig.
“We’ve been campaigning for the FSA to complete the transformation of meat inspections for at least the past three years only to be met by painfully slow progress and continued service inefficiency.
“We will be joining with other industry bodies to oppose the debt-recovery change. It is unnecessary in the form in which it has been announced and needs to be exposed to a bit of common sense.”
Food safety inspection of carcasses was formerly the responsibility of the Meat Hygiene Service, which merged with the FSA earlier this year.
The new payment system is to take effect from 13 September.