Government must secure fair deal for meat sector

Scotland's high-quality red meat will continue to attract European Union customers based on its hard-earned reputation and the commitment of existing buyers to Scotch meat as a 'top-end' item on restaurant menus.

Scotland's red meat has a reputation for quality across Europe. Picture: Gary Hutchison

That was the claim made this week by the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) in light of some of the challenges likely to be faced by the industry once the UK has left the EU.

Responding after promotional body Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) produced a report highlighting some of the possible threats to trade, the association said that while Brexit would inevitably produce changes, they wouldn’t all necessarily be negative – provided the government secured the right deal for UK producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers.

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SAMW said yesterday: “The challenge for government during the next two years of Brexit negotiations is to ensure that trading routes into the EU remain open, even if that involves a certain degree of change and adjustment in the way in which that trade operates.

“If such a settlement can be delivered, albeit outside the single market, we’re confident the opportunity to sell Scotland’s high quality red meat to EU customers will continue.

“Trading into the EU may present more challenges for SAMW members in the post-Brexit era, of course, as the QMS report rightly warns. However, while much will depend on the settlement which the government is able to deliver, SAMW member companies will continue to seek relevant and profitable EU business.”

The association said it was crucial that the opportunities which existed for home-produced growth within the UK were recognised by the government.

“The UK meat market is a long way short of being self-sufficient, a fact which means there should be greater opportunities for domestic expansion, especially by Scottish suppliers.

“As the QMS report states, two-thirds of Scotch meat is ‘exported’ to the rest of the UK, making it our most important trading outlet. It will be vital, therefore, that in negotiating the UK’s post-Brexit deals, with the EU and other existing and new trading partners around the world, the UK market is given proper and effective protection against inferior, poor welfare and poor hygiene imports from other countries.”