In a letter to Secretary of State Alister Jack, president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) Andy McGowan has warned that the red meat sector is heading for ‘substantial market turbulence’ during the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The letters puts forward that that unless the UK Government provides ‘much-needed clarity’ concerning the practical and technical aspects of how Scottish companies can continue to trade with customers in the EU, the whole of Scotland’s farming and meat processing chain will be plunged into a period of ‘great uncertainty’.
It also included the comment that the new request for support from the Secretary of State for Scotland follows a similar request to the Defra Secretary of State, George Eustice, made by the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) in England and Wales. Mr McGowan pointed out that the BMPA request, which was made a number of weeks ago, was still awaiting a reply.
A list of practical requests was included in the letter including:
- That the UK clarifies the precise format of the health mark to be applied, for both processors located in both GB and NI, and when the new format can be rolled out for use on the factory floor so that companies can finalise the purchase of labelling and packaging materials, which can have long lead-in times.
- That the UK CVO has communicated these changes to our internal certification and health mark arrangements with her opposite numbers in other 3rd country competent authorities and received acknowledgement and agreement from them to start using these marks on product exported to their territories.
- That the UK has devised a workable scheme that allows groupage and mixed loads to be sent to the EU and that companies have advanced knowledge of the details so they can adapt their product despatch procedures accordingly.
- That the UK has sufficient affordable veterinary (or other) resource to provide the significantly increased volume of health certification to the timetable that the industry will require.
- That access to health certification documentation will be largely automated, business friendly and at low cost.
“If left unresolved, this lack of action could cause untold and long-lasting damage to the livestock supply chain throughout the UK, and especially here in Scotland where livestock farming is central to the viability of rural communities,” said Mr McGowan.
“Trade with our customer base in Europe was worth an estimated £85 million in 2019, so greatly helps to underpin some 3,000 jobs across the Scottish red meat processing sector along with 1,000s more in the primary livestock farming sector. We therefore believe that it is crucial that all current red meat export activity to the EU market is maintained. This will provide viability for the UK red meat sector, and primary livestock producers, during what is already a period of great uncertainty which could, if not carefully managed by the UK Government, lead to substantial market turbulence.
“Furthermore, there is a significant amount of intra-company trade between processing plants in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the lack of clarity around practical procedures required to move meat between these two parts of the United Kingdom is a serious concern.”
Mr McGowan added that all the issues raised by the Association’s letter were ‘within the gift of UK Ministers’ and were therefore separate from the ongoing trade negotiations between Brussels and Whitehall.