17 November 2000



A speed-up in beef exports would help to put a smile on

visitors to next Wednesdays (Nov 22) Scottish National

Winter Fair, reports Shelley Wright

AT the Scottish National Winter Fair a year ago, beef farmers had cause for celebration when it was announced that the first consignment of Scotch beef in 44 months had been exported to Italy.

A year on, and Scotbeef – Scotlands only meat processor licensed under the date-based export scheme – is still sending beef to Italy, as well as to Holland and Belgium. But the optimism a year ago that the lifting of the beef export ban might improve producers fortunes is still to be realised.

"The main problem we still have is the weakness of the k," says Ian Galloway, chairman of Scotbeef.

Before the 1996 worldwide ban on British beef was imposed, the export trade was worth more than £11m/year to Scotbeef.

"In the past year we have managed to export beef every week, but in very low quantities," Mr Galloway says.

As well as the value of sterling being high against the k, making exports for all British firms tough, the strict rules governing the DBES continue to make life difficult.

"We continue to try to get some of the anomalies ironed out, but it is proving very difficult to get the British government or the EU to move," he says.

And the recent publication of the BSE inquiry report and recommendations from the Food Standards Agency on the need to maintain stringent BSE controls makes it even less likely that the EU will accept any relaxation of the DBES rules, Mr Galloway concedes.

Until the ban on bone-in beef exports is removed, increases in volumes of beef sent abroad are unlikely.

However, Scotbeef exhibited some prime Scottish beef recently at the SIAL food fair in Paris, and Mr Galloway says that there was a lot of interest from international buyers, including the French, which was encouraging.

So, a year on, was it worthwhile for Scotbeef to get involved in the export trade once again? "Certainly not from a financial point of view," Mr Galloway says. "But we gave a commitment to the industry that we would put the system in place and at least keep the doors open. And that we have done.

"But the costs are extremely high. Cattle are being killed at high cost and all that is currently being exported is the fillet, sirloin and rib cuts (boneless, of course). That represents only about 6% of the carcass, and no-one can run a business and expect to make money on that."

Stuart and Una Ogles Banton Babe took the supreme championship at last years Scottish Winter Fair. This years show opens on Nov 22.

See more