The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) has taken the unusual step of asking Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing to put measures in place to ensure beef farmers are guaranteed a return of above £3.60 per kilo for all properly finished and marketed cattle.
The request follows recent beef summit, hosted by Mr Ewing in Stirling and, acknowledges that there are ‘no easy solutions’ to the task of retaining beef cattle numbers at current levels.
SAMW states in a letter to Mr Ewing that with world wholesale prices currently being so low, and competition so high, the processing sector is simply unable to pay any more for livestock.
SAMW added: “We believe that to ensure farmers do not continue to lose money, the returns achieved for finished cattle need to be above £3.60 per kilo.
“When, as now, the market is depressed we would contend that the convergence funding promised by the Prime Minister should be used by the Scottish Government to fund a short term support scheme to top up farmers’ market returns, provided cattle hit the correct specification within a weight range 280 kilos to 360 kilos and grades O+4L, 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. 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.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the huge importance of the livestock sector with the recent beef summit showing our support and commitment to help understand and tackle the issues surrounding the industry at present.
“We agree there are no ‘easy solutions’ and following from the summit we will be looking to work with all parts of the supply chain to take forward both short and long term measures that can help improve efficiencies to safeguard the future of the industry. This will include looking at proposals received since this summit.
“However, 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.”