“More beef” was the plea which echoed round the Royal Highland Showground on the first day of the event.
The Scottish Government, meat wholesalers and the industry promotion body Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) were all ganging up to convince livestock producers the future was bright and plead with them to produce more.
The appeals began at daybreak at an industry breakfast when the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochhead claimed the growing beef market could in time soak up 20% more cattle. However he said there was no point in opening up new markets if the product wasn’t there to make a positive and lasting impact.
He conceded that the Eurozone crisis and the future of the CAP had raised questions of confidence within the industry but told industry leaders: ““Producers are naturally attracted by the short term opportunities but I urge you to position yourselves for the long term opportunities as well.
“The market is strong and I believe it will stay strong in the years ahead.”
His words were echoed by QMS chairman Jim McLaren who said it was vital the industry built confidence and maintained livestock numbers.
“From the world-leading quality assurance behind our labels to our high animal health and welfare and our natural, grass-based cattle and sheep production systems, our industry has a fantastic story to tell in terms of what sets our brands apart.
“Maintaining critical levels of raw material is crucial and it is vital we maintain the livestock numbers needed to satisfy the demand for our world-acclaimed brands. A demand that is set to grow year on year,” said Mr McLaren.
He added that the two key policy drivers which would have an impact on the volume of product, or critical mass of the industry in the future were the outcomes of the CAP reform process and the Woodland Expansion Proposals.
Scotland’s Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) added their weight to the appeal, with their president Alan McNaughton emphasizing that the under capacity in the meat industry was putting jobs and businesses at risk and leaving significant national income potential untapped.
He said: “As an industry, we have the capacity to become a much bigger player in the international meat market than is being achieved today. Unfortunately, lack of cattle, 20% less than we need, and sheep, 30% below requirement, is holding us back and damaging our ability to deliver a much-needed boost to the Scottish economy.
“Our plea today is for the Scottish Government to stand tall in London and Brussels and demand an increase in coupled calf scheme support to a minimum 10% of the available national budget.
“Give us a minimum 10% and a fresh window of opportunity will open for the whole Scottish meat chain.”
For more on this topic
See more on the Royal Highland Show on our Taking Stock blog