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QMS promises ‘greater engagement’ in wake of farmers’ frustration with assurance schemes

Kate Rowell and her team will host roadshows this summer.

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS)  is about to embark on a summer-long offensive to convince the industry it is getting value for money from farm assurance schemes.

QMS chair Kate Rowell told a press conference that the organisation has listened to farmers’ dissatisfaction and frustration over having to meet ever more complex assurance demands without the reward of any premium for their produce. She said the QMS board has engaged already with stakeholder groups and is now working towards a review of how it sets standards.

“We are aware of how tough the environment is and every penny has to be looked at, but quality assurance is what consumers are looking for and retailers want to know the right things are being done on farms, so it’s really important we stay on board with it,” she said.

“But we need to take people with us and that’s what this enhanced programme of engagement over the summer is about. If there are genuine issues  people are struggling with we will listen and address them  and make sure the industry sees us doing it.”

Members will get the opportunity to engage with QMS during a series of open meetings in June and July as well as at local shows, sales and events like Scotsheep and the Royal Highland Show.

The organisation’s new chief executive, Sarah Miller,  also insisted “visibility, engagement and communications” would be enhanced in future.

A new monitor farm programme is worth £1.79m to the industry.

Bruce McConnachie, QMS head of industry development, revealed the new monitor farm programme announced by the Scottish Government earlier this year would feature nine projects, and farmers will shortly be invited to apply to take part in it.

Funding amounts to £1.79million, and QMS are looking for as diverse a range of producers as possible, with a focus on seeing monitor farms make “real changes” to improve profitability over the duration of the four-year programme.

He said: “We’re hoping to do some really in-depth data gathering and benchmarking, to create data sets that will guide the industry and policy development.”

The challenges posed by Brexit and a lack of labour which continues to blight the meat processing sector, and in particular the export sector were outlined by Tom Gibson, QMS director of market development.

“We have product we can kill and process but we just don’t have the ability to get throughput numbers where we would like,” he said.

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