Experts call for debate over Scottish beef industry future

The time is right for a major debate about the future of the beef industry in Scotland, according to Douglas Bell, SAC senior agricultural policy consultant.

Addressing delegates at SAC’s Outlook Conference Mr Bell said Scottish producers should be asking some serious questions now, rather than going forward with a “business as usual” mentality.

“Beef is the biggest sector in Scottish agriculture and arguably the most important.


“In EU terms only Ireland has a bigger share of their agricultural production coming from beef than Scotland so it is a very important part of our industry,” Mr Bell said.

For the beef sector, operating at the quality end of the market is a “no-brainer”, he said.

“My view is that the subsidy support system has to be there to keep businesses profitable.

Self-sufficiency ‘way off’

“A recent report from Northern Ireland suggests that quality suckled calf beef is on the way out unless prices rise dramatically.

“Other predictions suggest that dairy beef is the future influenced by drivers such as sexed semen,” he added.

From the mid-1990s, he said, GB has been a long way off being self-sufficient in beef.

Consumption decrease

But, contrary to popular opinion, imports are not coming from South American in the main, he added.

Ireland is the main exporter to the UK at around 62% of beef imports, compared with 12% from Brazil.

Prices have held up much better than the sheep sector, with the Scottish premium of 12-15ppkg still in place, he said.

EU predictions show a gradual decrease in consumption and production, with an estimated reduction of 518,000 tonnes of beef by 2014.

Return to the SAC conference special report