Scottish farm leaders and meat processors will work together on a strategy to combat the price pressures facing the beef industry.
Representatives from NFU Scotland and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) will meet to discuss the number of prime cattle coming forward, weights and specification, changing retail demand and keeping the premium on Scotch beef.
The Scottish deadweight steer price has fallen more than 50p/kg from its 418.4p/kg high last July, when prices had shot up after the supermarket horsemeat scandal.
Farmers also complained this February that new deadweight pricing grids were brought in by processors almost overnight, with stricter penalties for out-of-spec stock.
NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said the sector needed the right signals from the market so the confidence from previous years did not disappear.
“Prices go up and down for many reasons and we need to better understand what is behind this,” he said.
“There are underlying issues that we need to examine and address so that we can manage production cycles and align them with demand.
“While we need to discuss with the wholesalers how we manage the coming new weeks, we also need to send out clear messages at an early stage on the specification and weight of cattle.”
SAMW president Alan McNaughton (pictured) said he welcomed the talks with NFUS but any discussion had to focus on long-term issues and the whole supply chain.
“Similar joint action would also have been beneficial, of course, when cattle prices rose to more than 420p/kg last year, an experience that took the processing sector to the very brink of commercial ‘meltdown’ and put the future of the Scottish meat industry at severe risk.
“The fact that even at today’s prices Scotch meat is still the most expensive in Europe means that many member companies are still doing no more than marking time in their slow recovery from last year’s loss-making trade.”