AT long last, Scotland is to receive a fairer share of its red meat levy following the passing of the UK’s Agriculture Bill which paves the way for payments to be made from one country to another to address as appropriate, livestock movements across national borders.

Such changes to the distribution of the levy across England, Wales and Scotland are to be implemented next year to recognise cross-Border livestock movement and provide greater transparency to farmers and processors in each of the UK nations.

It has been a long-running objective for all three levy boards to have direct control over home-generated levies for domestic marketing campaigns, industry development and export activities. The new scheme will see more than £1m of levy collected in English abattoirs return to each of Scotland and Wales.

The three levy bodies have worked collaboratively to identify a methodology and mechanism that can underpin the redistribution of red meat levies, which will be updated each year. The scheme, which needs to be approved by ministers in all three countries, will enable the red meat levy to reflect the location where the animal was reared, rather than the country of slaughter. This approach is welcomed by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Meat Promotion Wales, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). 

As an interim solution for the past three years, AHDB, HCC and QMS have estimated what the financial amount could be from levy reform and have used it to fund a collaborative programme of activities to support the British meat industry.

This includes collaboration on market access and pre-competitive promotional work overseas and work to underpin the nutritional benefits of red meat across the UK. Part of this was the recently successful Make It campaign, initiated to encourage consumers to buy red meat as the food service industry was severely hit by lockdown restrictions in the spring. 

It is anticipated that the new levy scheme will be in place by April 1, 2021, to replace the collaborative ring-fenced fund. While the funds earned from English, Scottish and Welsh beef, lamb and pork supply chains would enable each country to invest into local projects, the three organisations plan to maintain collaborative projects in a number of areas.  

AHDB chief strategy officer Will Jackson said: “Parliament has recognised the cross-border nature of our red meat supply chains and the need to reform the levy distribution mechanism to recognise where producers have economic value. In the interim, QMS, HCC and AHDB have developed an effective collaborative approach on joint initiatives to benefit the British meat industry.”

QMS chief executive, Alan Clarke added: “While the differences in our landscape, our markets and our production systems necessitate direct control of our own, domestic levy payments, we are committed to continuing to work together on strategic priorities and in addressing the challenges which our industry faces such as leaving the EU, the terms of future trade deals and tackling climate change.”