Red meat levy repatriation – Committee Chairman blog – 18 August 2020

Repatriation of red meat levies is still necessary to build on the success of UK-wide promotion during the pandemic according to NFU Scotland’s Livestock Committee Chairman Jimmy Ireland, who writes:

Early on in to Covid-19 restrictions, the Livestock Committee was clear that we needed to see strategic promotion on meat, and beef in particular, given the overnight loss of the foodservice sector.

We entered into conversations with the other UK farming unions, and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), about boosting promotion and it was good to see QMS working with AHDB and HCC (Meat Promotion Wales) through the ringfenced fund to produce a highly visual and successful campaign.

Supermarkets and butchers also did their part by running promotional activity around steaks and roasting joints at a time when this was needed.

Earlier in the year, the Livestock Committee agreed that it wanted to see an increase to QMS marketing levies during the recovery phase arising from Covid-19.  However, following detailed discussions at the July meeting of the Livestock Committee we have now revised our stance.  We believe the best way to enhance marketing of Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI in the short term is through levy repatriation, which we believe would see the QMS marketing budget increase by £1 million.

There has been no doubt that the interim solution of the ring-fenced fund has presented positive outcomes, with enhanced joint working between the three red meat promotional bodies in Great Britain, and Scottish cattle and sheep farmers must be mindful that our key consumer is the 58 million people elsewhere in Great Britain.

However red meat levy repatriation gives Scottish farmers and crofters more say on how our levy is spent in discussions with the Scottish Government and QMS.  This gives us more opportunity to sell the strong credentials of Scottish beef and lamb production, to talk about our high standards of environmental stewardship and animal husbandry, as well as the innate quality of our product.

This may mean that, in some circumstances, a joint UK promotion would in fact give us a greater return for our levy as is currently seen with the recent campaign, but that it will be for Scottish stakeholders to decide whether it’s in our best interest to use this repatriated money for this joint approach or not.

It is therefore the clear position of NFU Scotland that the levy collected on our stock at English and Welsh abattoirs should be repatriated to QMS, once the UK Agriculture Bill has passed to provide a legal basis for this transfer of levies.

Going forward we can’t rule out a need to increase the marketing levies collected here in Scotland, through an amendment to ‘The Quality Meat Scotland Order 2008’ ( which, in particular, limits the sheep levy to 60p a head, meaning there is no legal basis to increase the levy the producer pays to market Scotch Lamb PGI.  

If we want to spend more on our marketing in future, then we must see more flexibility through a change to the law.

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