Brexit will be top of the agenda for Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers in 2017
The meat industry needs reassurances over labour and standards to prosper in 2017, according to the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW).
Allan Jess, president of SAMW, said: "Brexit raises several issues for our members, of course, with the need for continued freedom to employ the EU workers on which many meat sector businesses rely being absolutely critical," he said.
"In this context, we’re concerned that positive Government signals regarding seasonal labour arrangements, presumably aimed at the fruit and veg sectors, suggest that meat plants, many with significant numbers of excellent EU workers at present, could be left out of the picture."
He said the domestic skill base was not ’sufficiently geared towards the butchery skills which our industry requires’.
"That means that if the government take a tough stance on our present and future worker requirements, it will also have to invest in new education and skills training to give us the UK-based people we need.
"Turning the worker supply tap off without turning the skills tap on won’t work."
He also called the suggestion post-Brexit Britain could protect itself by raising standards above levels in other countries ‘naïve’.
"As an industry and as a nation, we already apply extremely high standards to our food production, because we believe in doing things correctly," he said.
"Going even further, however, beyond what is either reasonable or necessary, will merely add costs of our industry and hand sales to cheaper alternatives.
"Having said all that, Brexit is definitely an opportunity for us, provided the UK’s negotiators are successful in creating a new and positive platform for business."
He added other issues must not be lost as the focus was placed on Brexit.
"Our members have no attention of standing still while the politicians talk."
Mr Jess said Scotland’s livestock should be granted BSE negligible risk status in 2017 and called for Food Standards Scotland to assist companies in maintaining high standards, rather than ’box ticking operations which may have the appearance of protecting the public, while actually delivering precious little’.