Scotland’s meat wholesalers are upbeat about business prospects in 2017 but have warned that gaining access to the opportunities on offer this year will depend on politicians and regulators delivering favourable conditions for the industry to prosper.
“It’s no surprise that Brexit will be pretty much top of our agenda in 2017 with the need for clear assurance from Government on future labour requirements and the framing of post-Brexit regulations which ease the current burdens on businesses rather than add to them,” said Allan Jess (pictured above), president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), adding that if the Government gets it wrong on either of these points, the industry will suffer.
“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. In this context, we’re concerned that positive Government signals regarding seasonal labour arrangements, presumably aimed at the fruit and veg sectors, suggests that meat plants, many with significant numbers of excellent EU workers at present, could be left out of the picture.
“The reality is that SAMW member companies have not been turning away huge numbers of local applicants for meat plant work, partly because the domestic skill base isn’t 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.”