Losing full and free access to the European market is a ‘considerable threat’ to the Scottish red meat industry, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
Scotland’s livestock sector has relied on trade with the EU and the rest of the UK and just 23 per cent of the turnover for Scottish abattoirs comes from Scotland.
With questions remaining over the future of Scotland’s position in the UK, QMS also highlighted the importance of the union for trade.
Two-thirds of abattoir turnover was from sales to the rest of the UK, according to the briefing paper highlighting the challenges and opportunities for the Scottish red meat outside the EU.
Ten per cent of turnover was from international markets, with 90 per cent of this from the EU.
QMS chairman Jim McLaren said the UK could face ‘punitive tariffs and substantial market disruption’ from Europe following Brexit.
Mr McLaren said: “As with any major change, the prevailing uncertainty about the impact of Brexit is unwelcome for the Scottish red meat industry, as it is for many other UK industries for which exports play a key role.”
However, he said the UK would gain greater control of imports and, without other trade agreements, wholesale prices of imports would increase.
But the UK would also face tariffs when exporting to Europe and without ‘significant’ price correction, this would likely lead to a reduction in export volumes.
Scotland would be ‘more than self-sufficient’ in meat without exports. The UK as a whole would not be able to meet domestic demand for beef and pork.
QMS said trade was ‘a key part of managing seasonal supply and demand for cuts’.
Leaving the EU could provide opportunities for developing trading agreements with non-EU markets with most growth in the agricultural market to 2025 in Asia, Latin American and the Middle East.
But Mr McLaren warned developing these markets would ‘take time and significant resource’.