Six-month rule casts doubt on Scots beef effort

18 February 1999

Six-month rule casts doubt on Scots beef effort

By Allan Wright

EFFORTS to re-establish Scotlands beef export market took another step forward this week with the first meeting of the Scottish beef export working group.

But while Scottish farm minister and group chairman Lord Sewel said he was greatly encouraged by the meeting, with “clear expressions of intent by some companies to dedicate their plants for the export of beef”, the meat trade was less enthusiastic.

A spokesman expressed considerable uncertainty about dedicating plants to export standards. “Getting enough qualifying cattle to maintain throughput for home and export demand is a major concern. The six-month dam survival rule is the biggest stumbling block,” he said.

But Alan Stevenson, chief executive of the Scottish Meat Wholesalers Association said that, while there was nervousness about supplies of export standard cattle, there were several operators with more than one abattoir who could dedicate one plant and still have an outlet for cattle not meeting export specifications.

“We could also see wholesalers share facilities and have one plant dedicated for export. There is a definite enthusiasm about getting back into export markets.”

The working group comprises senior civil servants and representatives of government enterprise bodies, the Scottish NFU, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, and the Scotch Quality Beef and Lamb Association.

Lord Sewel insisted that no energy would be spared in the effort to relaunch Scottish beef into its previous European markets. “It will not be easy, but we have the structures and resources to give it our best shot,” he said.

The meat trades reticence hinges on the fact that information held on government computers can verify that the dam of an export-eligible beast survived for at least six months after the calfs birth in only about 50% of cases.

“That is not acceptable. It will not impress EU auditors and is making it difficult for abattoirs to become export standard dedicated because they would not have sufficient throughput,” John Cameron, chairman of the Scottish Beef Council insisted.

In Scotland, exports were worth £120 million a year and accounted for 27% of the beef trade before BSE. Mr Cameron is to present the Scottish Office with a proposal for an SBC-run farmer certification scheme, policed by government inspectors.

But Scottish NFU vice-president Jim Walker said the rules were clear and certification by a government-run scheme at the point of slaughter would be required.

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