Scottish beef producers have called for emergency government funding to safeguard the future of the Scotch Beef industry.
Hundreds of desperate north-east farmers gathered at the Thainstone Centre, near Inverurie, for a red meat crisis meeting organised by NFU Scotland.
Representatives from throughout the supply chain, including suckled calf producers, finishers, meat processors and auctioneers, came together to try to find a solution to the current price downturn which is estimated to have cost the industry £30 million since November.
No silver bullet was found, but the majority agreed immediate government funding was needed to stem the decline in cattle numbers, and marketing and education was needed in the long term to inform consumers of the sector’s environmental credentials and boost sales of red meat.
“Suckler cows are an endangered species; there’s no money in it,” said farmer and AgriScot chairman Robert Neill.
He said the market was plagued by a lack of competition and everyone in the supply chain needed to get together to discuss a way of making beef production profitable for everyone involved.
“I want a fair price for what I do every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” added Mr Neill.
“We need rewarded for the product that we produce. The processors need to work with us.”
Scottish Beef Association chairman Neil McCorkindale, who farms at Scammadale, near Oban, said government support was needed to stop the freefall in cattle numbers.
He said: “We have got everything going for us but we don’t have the cash and the confidence right now. There’s a lack of competition in the industry and the whole supply chain needs more transparency.
“We should make no apologies for needing government support in the short term.”
Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers executive manager Ian Anderson said government had not done enough to help primary producers.
He said the association had presented an action plan to government in June, which included calls for increased calf support payments of £250 per calf, and nothing had come of it.
Mr Anderson added: “You need a shopping list to go to the Scottish Government and say ‘that’s what we need’.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise the huge importance of the livestock sector and have continued to have discussions with the industry following the beef summit in August. We are presently looking at a number of actions within the whole supply chain to take forward, both in the short and long term.”
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