QMS to focus on ‘grassroot development’

The fall in beef cattle numbers is a concern for levy body QMS. Picture: Getty
The fall in beef cattle numbers is a concern for levy body QMS. Picture: Getty
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THE falling number of beef cattle in this country has triggered a review by Scotland’s red meat promotional body, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) into its work.

Chief executive Uel Morton said that the organisation would in future “sharply focus” its development work on grassroots activities aimed at improving the “efficiency, sustainability and confidence” of the Scottish red meat industry.

“One key factor influencing the decision to more sharply hone our development activities was keen awareness of the need to tackle the considerable threat of falling critical mass of beef cattle numbers,” he said.

“QMS’s overall strategy is to shape a sustainable and prospering Scottish red meat industry and the shortage of beef cattle numbers is now the greatest threat facing the beef industry in Scotland, placing immense pressure on our processing sector.”

The decline in livestock numbers had a direct knock-on effect on QMS’s income with declining amounts of levy cash coming into the organisation. Not only have cattle numbers slipped but, with the closure of the Vion plant, pig slaughtering in Scotland has been cut drastically.

Morton stressed QMS would continue to target the budget available to deliver maximum value for money for levy-payers: “To do so we must remain light on our feet and respond robustly to the challenges and opportunities in front of our industry.

“The industry in Scotland has fantastic brands, such as Scotch Beef PGI, which have huge potential for growth in the home and overseas markets but without adequate supplies of product this opportunity is at very real risk of being missed.”

Among the key areas considered during the review process was the need to maximise the impact of QMS activity to support cattle production in Scotland as well as taking a fresh look at the balance between scientific research and uptake of technology at farm level.

“The changes will see a new industry development structure introduced to more effectively meet the organisation’s remit to improve efficiency,” said Morton. “This will see the [hiring] of three knowledge transfer specialists, who will focus on the uptake of technology by cattle and sheep producers, and a brands integrity manager.”

They will replace the existing- livestock development manager, technical projects manager and science and innovation manager. Morton said the implementation of these changes would be phased in over the period to the end of March 2014 and would avoid loss of employment where possible.

NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said the restructuring of operations was understandable given the circumstances within the industry.

“It presents an opportunity to refocus and ensure that levy payers continue to get best value from QMS and that the efficiency, competitiveness and reputation of our red meat sector remains world leading,” he said.