THE country is now more than a month into lockdown, tragically over 21,000 people in the UK have lost their lives due to Covid-19, and all of us are having to adjust to a completely new way of life.

Our frontline healthcare workers have been stretched to their limits, but behind the scenes there are many hidden heroes who put high quality red meat onto our plates,

starting with the farmers who have been busy lambing, calving and sowing to produce not just the food we need now, but food for the future.

The agricultural community’s pivotal role in keeping the nation fed and the butchers’ shops and supermarkets stocked with world class, delicious local produce has

never been so important. Many consumers have begun to understand that their food doesn’t just come from supermarkets, and the whole realisation of why it’s

important to buy local, along with the resurgence in home cooking, are legacies that could really benefit the red meat industry going forward.

One of the most significant challenges our industry had to deal with at the start of the coronavirus pandemic was the sudden closure of the food service sector which has led to significant carcase balance challenges facing the beef supply chain.

In response to this, the £1.2million jointly funded marketing campaign between QMS, AHDB and HCC will encourage consumers to choose locally produced, quality assured beef to help them make the most out of steak night, make more with leftovers and batch cook with confidence.

This national campaign will run alongside our Scotlandspecific ‘Make it’ activity which launched in March promoting our world-class brands - Scotch Beef PGI,

Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork – through a range of advertising on billboards, radio and audio streaming platforms and extensive social media activity on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Over the next 12 weeks, our brands will also be promoted on STV to over 84% of adults in Scotland, as well as via social media, PR and on point of sale material in Scotch Butcher Club members shops.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the QMS team have increased their established, on-going retailer engagement and it’s heartening to see the efforts some supermarkets have made to highlight their commitment to support Scottish and British farmers and source our top-quality red meat.

However, there is still much to do, we must ensure going forward that there is an equitable return going back to the producer. It’s also absolutely essential that we have Scottish produce on our supermarket shelves, and it is extremely disappointing to see a processor and some national retailers substituting our world-class brands for cheap imports. Please be rest assured that QMS is working hard to rectify this situation.

Another key challenge which has slipped down the news agenda because of coronavirus is, of course, Brexit. With the deadline to apply for an extension set at the end of June 2020, QMS and the Scottish red meat industry is now calling for the UK Government to extend the Brexit transition period so the industry can recover from the massive economic impact of Covid -19, without the threat of a hard Brexit after 31 December 2020.

We need to ensure that the Scottish red meat industry isn’t negatively affected further by measures such as tariffs imposed on exports, the allowing of inferior imports

into our market and the establishment of hygiene and phytosanitary checks between GB and Northern Ireland.

During the current pandemic, the whole team at QMS have really stepped up to the mark. Working from home, they have given their all to help keep the red meat supply chain functioning.

Along with Chief Executive Alan Clarke, I have been having daily video calls to tackle the challenges of the day and they have come at us thick and fast. A problem which is of paramount importance one day can disappear very quickly as a fresh challenge comes over the horizon.

Working closely and collaboratively with each part of the red meat industry to keep the supply chain open has been one of our key priorities. This has proved very challenging because as well as ensuring that the short-term needs of consumers are met, we also have to ensure that any emergency changes don’t create long term unintended consequences that could damage the industry in future.

We are undoubtably still in unprecedented and challenging times, with the coronavirus pandemic looking set to affect us all globally for the significant future.

However, this era of change is one in which the value of QMS’s role is particularly clear.

In addition, in these most difficult of times, it is more important than ever that we set our differences aside and all work together for the good of our industry. The best

way forward for farming, and indeed the whole country, is if we continue stay united and help each other as best we can.

I joined QMS as Chair in October 2018 and I am proud to be leading the organisation through these turbulent times. I am also extremely proud to be part of an industry which is working quietly and steadily throughout this terrible time to keep the Scottish people well fed and healthy with nutritious, top-quality food.