Livestock Chair's Blog - 28 June 2019

With barbecues being dragged out of garden sheds and garages up and down the country, NFU Scotland Livestock Chair Jimmy Ireland is asking, ‘how can Scotch Beef be flying off the shelf while beef prices are falling through the floor?’

For me a stretch of two or three days of good weather can only mean one thing at this time of year; silage.

For the general public the good weather means days at the beach, in the garden or at the park enjoying the sunshine with family and friends, and probably a good bit of food and drink as well.

I have no doubt that delicious Scotch Beef burgers will be the first buying decision for many as they dust down their barbecues for family get-togethers.

However, while nutritious and sustainable Scotch Beef is flying off the shelves, the price that farmers are receiving is falling through the floor.

At the Royal Highland Show last week I spoke to grocery retailers and others about my real concern that the mixture of low market returns, and high input costs was presenting a cashflow crisis to hardworking Scottish farmers and crofters producing high-quality beef.

When the NFU Scotland Livestock Committee met in May there were some chinks of light that prices were starting to rally, but it appears that there was nothing other than hope driving that perception.

I was shocked to hear the remarks of one UK Government minister when asked by a reporter at the Royal Highland Show what the Government was going to do about the dire situation, only to respond by saying that there was no problem to address.

Last week, following NFU Scotland highlighting that prices were at a three-year low, the Scottish Government wrote to the UK Government calling from the case to be made in Europe that similar emergency funding must be available to the Scottish beef sector as has been granted to Irish producers.

Scottish livestock farmers and crofters have always approached the European Commission in good faith at times of need.  Our politicians need to take a similar approach on our behalf as the Irish have done…  Though Westminster is doing its best to distract itself from the real issues impacting our sector.

The suckler herd in Scotland has faced a decline and it is my ambition for our industry to pull together now to stop it reducing any further. It is heartening to hear that the Scottish Government shares my ambition and I am hopeful that we will be able to work together to achieve this common goal.  

In the meantime, the supply chain needs to realise that if they want top-quality grass based Scottish beef production to continue for generations to come, then Scottish farmers and crofters need to receive a premium from the marketplace.

We should take great pleasure in the fact that our produce is being enjoyed at barbecues by friends and families across the country, bringing people together. If given the chance we will continue to feed the nation!

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