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President's Blog - 17 May 2017

A profitable, sustainable future is the big ambition that I have for our farmers, crofters and growers, and yet it needs a balance to allow each sector to develop writes NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick.

We recently undertook a meeting in Keith with farmer members and supply trade representatives on the co-products from Scotland’s world famous whisky industry.  A further meeting with farming stakeholders and the Whisky trade has taken place this week.

The energy sector is a new player that has come onto the field to challenge for supplies of draff and pot ale. This has created a new outlet for these valuable co-products and, from the distillers’ perspective, it has created a buyer/user of co-products for the full twelve months of the year.

Like agriculture, the energy industry is in receipt of taxpayers’ support which makes it more viable and able to pay a competitive price for products which have, for generations, been a mainstay of diets in our livestock industry.

With the ambitious climate change targets that the government has set, following on from the Paris Agreement, such energy projects make the distilling industry - our biggest exporter - a lot more greener and “sustainable” than in the past.

While acutely aware of the contribution that farmers and growers across all sectors, whether cropping or livestock, make to meeting such targets, our contribution is always more difficult to quantify.

These developments create a new force and commercial decisions have been made and capital invested to meet this new market.  That is exactly what our livestock industry has done for generations, and the reality is that the supply and demand position has moved.

We could question the displacement of environmental and climate change benefits from Scotland to other countries by our need to now bring in alternative feeds for this once readily available source of protein and energy for livestock.

I believe Scottish Government are committed to research that will deliver a better understanding of the relative merits of using distillery co-products as animal feed or as feedstock for bioenergy plants.   That will help establish an overall understanding of what the climate change impacts are and what that means for the marketplace for these products.

The meeting in Keith was primarily set to ensure supplies were available for our livestock sector and we had guarantees offered to make this happen.

The hard bit, which is the reality of this change, will be the price for draff and pot ale.  Since the market has moved from an oversupply to a demand led position, the economics of our livestock industry will have to factor this into their businesses.

Other options were also tabled.  These included collective responsibility in encouraging forward buying or ordering; the creation of buying groups and looking at the availability of on-farm storage.

 None of these alter the hard, commercial reality that “things have changed”.

Author: Andrew McCornick

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Andrew Moir

185 days ago

a pragmatic and correct approach on commercialism and the need for change and the recognition of that fact.
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