A modest 4 per cent increase in red meat exports from Scotland in the past 12 months was welcomed yesterday by Quality Meat Scotland chairman Jim McLaren, who stressed the importance of supplying all markets – whether at home or abroad – with Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb.
He said that while it was good to see exports rise to £81.4 million last year compared with £78m the previous 12 months, some of the rise was down to price increases and only part due to increased volume of sales.
Speaking at the SIAL food industry fair in Paris, where nine Scottish-based meat companies are meeting their customers, McLaren said: “We have to get the balance right between exports and the home market.”
QMS also has a stand at the event, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The fair features more than 6,000 exhibitors from 100 countries, including several from Scotland, with around 150,000 trade visitors expected over the five days.
McLaren was keen to stress the positive message for producers from the export figure was that red meat produced in Scotland was in demand abroad. The demand was not just for the top quality meat but also for lesser value cuts.
“Whilst there is a demand from overseas customers for the very top end of quality products from Scotland, there is encouraging volume demand from overseas markets for fifth quarter and lower value products. This is good news in terms of optimising returns for the whole carcase.”
Laurent Vernet, head of marketing at QMS, said the Continental market was becoming more sophisticated, with buyers being precise in their demands.
France remains the main market for red meat from Scotland, taking almost half of the overall total. Belgium and the Netherlands account for another quarter, with the Nordic countries at 6 per cent.
Three years have passed since the Scandanavian countries were targeted by QMS as a potential market, and the latest figures have confirmed the success of that policy.
Looking to the future, McLaren said one market that could take Scotch meat, provided current trade and health barriers, were removed was Japan. There are some 40 countries at SIAL selling meat, and the Japanese are making their first appearance at the exhibition with their highly-priced Wagyu beef.
He said: “I am sure Scottish beef would be in demand. They are used to paying a high price for red meat and if we could get the trade barriers down, I am sure our beef would sell.”
During the day, QMS hosted visits from both the Scottish rural affairs minister, Richard Lochhead, and UK environment minister, Liz Truss, who was making her first visit to the event since her appointment during the summer.