Jim McLaren warns of Brexit risks to meat producers

As the UK government moves closer to triggering Article 50, it is becoming clear that Brexit will have considerable implications for all regions and sectors of UK agriculture.

Losing access to the EU market is a 'considerable threat', warned QMS chairman Jim McLaren. Picture: Alan Richardson
Losing access to the EU market is a 'considerable threat', warned QMS chairman Jim McLaren. Picture: Alan Richardson

However, with the rearing of cattle, sheep and pigs for meat standing at the heart of Scottish farming – collectively accounting for more than 40 per cent of total Scottish farm output – a report published by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) highlights just how exposed this sector will be.

It showed that, without a favourable trade deal with the EU, beef carcases could face tariffs of 92 per cent of their value, sheepmeat 45 per cent and pig carcases 53 per cent – while that charged on specific cuts could be even higher.

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Farming policy '˜must be decided in Scotland'

“The information contained in this report makes clear that losing the full and free access to this market that full membership of the EU brings is a considerable threat,” said QMS chairman Jim McLaren.

“The document also makes it clear that opportunities to build and improve market access to capture recognised opportunities outside the EU will take time and resource.”

McLaren said that international trade was particularly important in the case of Scottish sheep meat abattoirs which generated more than 25 per cent of their total turnover from sales outside the UK.

The report showed that more than 95 per cent of Scotland’s international trade in the sector is with members of the EU and that 15 per cent of UK beef production, 36 per cent of sheep meat production and a quarter of pig meat was exported.

“The European Union dominates this international trade with 94 per cent of beef exports going to the EU,” said McLaren.