NFU Scotland has described the meeting with supermarket bosses
and the rest of the food supply chain today (Thursday), hosted
by the First Minister, as critical for consumers and the food
and farming industries.
NFUS met the First Minister Alex Salmond and Cabinet Secretary
Richard Lochhead last week to discuss the huge pressures facing
the livestock industry, which is suffering from soaring production
costs and unsustainable farmgate returns. The financial position
of farmers could now be further hit with news of the possible re-emergence
of foot and mouth in the south of England.
At the meeting last week, NFUS stressed the need for supermarkets to
recognise that to secure the future supply of high quality Scottish produce
for consumers, the supply chain had to work far more effectively.
NFUS President Jim McLaren said:
“We stressed very clearly last week to the First Minister and
Cabinet Secretary that the future of local food production is under threat.
Between 1998 and 2005, prices to farmers fell by 9% whilst our costs
of production rose by 15%. That trend was bad enough, but it has become
far worse over the last few months for the red meat sector with world
grain shortages sending animal feed bills through the roof. With news
now of foot and mouth’s possible re-emergence, the uncertainty
amongst livestock producers is only increasing.
“The Scottish Government is taking a lead on this issue and that
will be welcomed by farmers across the country. We need the big supermarkets
to realise that because of the pressure on food producers, they will
find the supply of high quality, Scottish food jeopardised and consumers
will pay the penalty in reduced choice. The knock-on consequences for
Scottish jobs in the food production and processing industries would
“You only need to look at the milk sector to find a warning sign
for the whole food industry. It has taken the threat of milk shortages,
both domestically and globally, to start driving the farmgate price back
to a sustainable level. However, production capacity has been lost; the
cows and farms simply aren’t there to increase production enough
to satisfy demand. With world population increasing, securing domestic
food production is a hugely important political issue once again – in
the longer-term we just cannot rely on the rest of the world to feed
us with their exports.
“The pigs and poultry sectors are the latest sector facing a precipice.
Rocketing feed costs have driven farms into a dreadful financial position
and we face losing our entire breeding herd. The situation in the beef
and lamb sectors is also hugely worrying.
“None of this should lead to massive rises in food prices. The
proportion of farmgate costs in the shelf price is small. A 30%
rise in the farmgate pig price only equates to around 10 pence on a pack
of bacon. This is as much about how the profits in the shelf price are
distributed. In the last 20 years, farmers share of the shopping pound
has dropped by 23%.
“We have been speaking on a daily basis to the supermarkets and
I hope this initiative from the Scottish Government, which is hugely
important, will add further momentum to the efforts to get a supply chain
that fairly rewards all parts in it.”
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