The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) is calling for clarity for the red meat sector as the health and economic uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and the trade and pricing unknowns, embedded in Brexit, are set to overhang the future of Scotland’s sector as never before.
“Business leaders hate uncertainty, whatever the cause,” said SAMW President, Andy McGowan. “This widely acknowledged fact most definitely applies to anyone seeking to earn a living from the production, processing, and marketing of the prime quality meat our country produces.”
Mr McGowan pointed out that even with vaccine solutions starting to be rolled it would be “foolish” to suggest that any return to normality will be either rapid or easy and that the Scottish red meat industry’s commitment to pandemic protection is for the long haul.
With respect to post-Brexit prospects, Mr McGowan said this was an issue where the phrase ‘no doubt’ had been conspicuous by its absence throughout the last four-and-a-half years.
“If ever we needed a clear and effective trade settlement with the EU, given the inescapable demands of Covid-19, this was surely the time,” he said. “Irrespective of individual views on Brexit, and SAMW has members on both sides of the debate, the need for clarity on trading terms and tariffs has always been a vital requirement. Unfortunately, we still don’t have that clarity, leaving many businesses in a state of limbo as we move into 2021.
“Whatever happens between now and midnight on December 31, a large degree of trade deal confusion is certain to spread into next year. Even if the political and ideological barriers are at last overcome, allowing a future UK/EU trading agreement to be reached by the year’s end, the practical workings of any new arrangement will need time to be understood and implemented.”
SAMW recently joined with other leading Scottish food and drink bodies in urging the Prime Minister to apply a six-month grace period to any new export rules, post-December 31. It also made a case for the UK Government to fund a buy-back scheme for red meat products which are despatched for sale within the EU market, but which are subsequently seriously delayed at customs.
“We also believe the UK Government should have an intervention support system ready and in place to cope with the eventuality of the home market becoming over-supplied due to disrupted exports into the EU. Without such a measure we could see livestock prices crashing in the first quarter of next year.
He added that SAMW, however, remains positive going into next year: “We’re certainly not afraid of 2021; far from it. Having said that, it would be enormously helpful to be provided with some clarity from the UK Government on how the next few months will pan out.
“We urgently need to know that viable and effective contingency plans are in place to ensure that any short-term disruption to trade in 2021 will be managed properly by Government with a clear eye on protecting the livestock supply chain from a Brexit-induced meltdown, thus ensuring we can move forward with a sense of future strength and prosperity.
“We have a lot to contribute towards delivering on the world stage. Inaction by Government, however, could see this industry being severely damaged before we get the chance to realise our full potential as part of post-Brexit Britain.”