The Scottish red meat sector has been warned of a tough winter ahead, with shortages of quality silage and soaring straw and protein prices.
Although the industry was warned about a tough few months, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chairman Jim McLaren explained at the launch of QMS’ annual review in Stirling, Scotland, that the industry was set to move into 2013 in “good shape”.
And red meat producers should also feel confident about other aspects of the Scotch meat industry including its Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork brands, said McLaren.
McLaren said: “Last year the Scottish red meat industry contributed a record £2.1bn to Scotland’s economy and Scotch Beef was named the biggest-selling Scottish food and drink brand in Great Britain, with sales totalling more than £247m. We are in a strong position to take advantage of increased demand for quality red meat from a growing population and an eventual upturn in the global economy.”
Over the last 12 months, Scottish calf numbers have stabilised, which McLaren said was likely to be because the less-efficient producers had left the industry. “This puts us in a strong position in terms of productivity and animal health. However, it is important producers continue to take advantage of any opportunities to further improve efficiency,” he added.
Results from the Scottish census also indicated a continuing and “unwelcome” reduction in breeding ewe numbers. And McLaren explained that although the decline in sheep numbers had contributed to improved farmgate prices and margins for sheep farmers, there was little evidence of the flock growing.
Although farmgate prices had improved, McLaren explained that Scottish red meat processors were feeling the squeeze. He said: “There is no doubt processors are enduring a ‘pincer effect’ as a result of tight supplies of raw material and a grocery sector which is feeling the pain of a very difficult economic climate.
“We have repeatedly emphasised the importance of critical mass to the processing sector. Without that, many are struggling to make a decent margin, never mind finding the capital they need to reinvest.”