Quality Meat Scotland is set to take steps to ensure it remains strongly positioned to robustly deliver its important red meat promotion and development workload for the Scottish livestock industry.
Highlighting the opportunities and threats facing the industry QMS chairman Donald Biggar said that in addition to our core activities, QMS plays a frontline role in developing innovation, such as the meat eating quality project it announced at the Royal Highland Show, and tackling key challenges such as climate change.
However, he warned that inflationary erosion, coupled with a decline in overall livestock numbers in recent years, has led to a reduction in the levy income on which QMS depends, to the point where reducing funding is impacting on levels of activity.
Following an eight year freeze in levy rates, the organisation is now planning to implement an increase, in line with inflation over that period.
“We are now at a crossroads in terms of balancing QMS's income from levy with our ability to deliver effectively for the red meat sector to ensure it continues to be well-placed to move forward as a strong, dynamic and efficient player in Scotland's food industry,” said Biggar.
Income from levy in 2008/09 was down to £3.9m compared with £4.2m in 2007/08 with estimated income for 2009/10 down to £3.7m.
Levy rates unchanged
Acknowledging the difficult times levy-payers have endured in recent years, Biggar pointed out levy rates have been unchanged since 2001 in the case of cattle and sheep and 1997 in the case of pigs.
“However the harsh reality of the situation is the decline in numbers of primestock produced in Scotland in recent years means that we must now address the issue of our reduced income from levy,” he added.
Since 2001 static levy rates have failed to keep pace with the average price producers receive for their livestock. In that time prime steer, sheep and pig prices have all increased by a remarkably consistent 58%.
The proposed levy would mean an increase of 93p per head of cattle, 13p per lamb and 21p per pig, effective from April 1 2010, subject to approval by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead.
“We have been very encouraged by initial soundings with industry representatives regarding raising levy and by the depth of confidence that exists in the ability of QMS to deliver. The widely held view across all sectors is that it is vital our activity is underpinned by appropriate resources,” said Biggar.
• Quality Meat Scotland