Red meat processors have called on the Scottish Government to create a support scheme to top up beef farmers’ market returns.
In a letter to Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) says government measures should be put in place to ensure beef farmers are guaranteed a return of more than £3.60 per kg for all “properly finished and marketed cattle”.
The letter, which was written following an all-industry beef summit in Stirling, suggests using the £160 million in convergence funding, promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to fund a short-term support scheme for farmers.
The association says farmers should be given support provided their cattle reach the correct specification – a weight range of 280-360kg and grades R3, R4L, U3 or U4L.
“This would allow cattle finishers to be able to buy store cattle knowing they have a guaranteed finished price for all cattle that are in the right specification to what the consumer wants,” said SAMW.
“Compliance with these parameters could be monitored via the Bovine EID database. Such an approach would bring much-needed stability to production volumes and restore confidence within the industry.”
SAMW said that it acknowledged there were no easy solutions to retaining Scottish beef cattle numbers at current levels, however processors were simply unable to pay any more for livestock due to world wholesale prices being so low and competition so high.
A Scottish Government spokesman last night ruled out a support scheme to aid beef farmers.
He said: “We would presently not be able to carry out market intervention as only the European Commission can use these crisis powers, as they have done for beef in Ireland.
“That is why we wrote to the UK Government asking it to make arrangements to support Scotland and the UK’s beef sector.
“We will continue to press for this to happen.”