SCOTLAND'S meat processors have rejected the Scottish Beef Association's suggestion that a 'lack of competition' in the abattoir sector was at the root of depressed prices for primary producers.

Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers executive manager, Martin Morgan, said: “We fully understand the difficulties that producers are enduring, but pointing the finger at processors is wide of the mark and unhelpful to the current situation. There are two key elements to delivering good margins for all players in the supply chain; a healthy and consistent demand for red meat from the consumer and decent values for 5th quarter material to enable carcase balance to be achieved, providing economic stability.

"The reality which member companies have faced this year, however, is that while retail prices have remained steady, wholesale prices have not, due the prolonged period of reduced demand from consumers," claimed Mr Morgan. "Current statistics from Quality Meat Scotland, for example, show mince sales down by 4.1% from last year’s level and steaks down by 3.4%.

“Businesses have also faced significant reductions over the last 12/18 months in the value of 5th quarter items, such as hides and offal, a factor which has contributed heavily to a severe downward pressure on processing margins with a consequent negative impact on what member companies have been able to pay for stock.

“It is not a case of any lack of competition among processors," he insisted. "On the contrary, the red meat sector is a highly competitive industry, driven by supply and demand at every point, with member companies regularly making huge investments to maintain Scotland’s presence in both domestic and international markets. To be accused of a lack of competition and a lack of promotion at a time when businesses are fighting for market share at home and abroad is very disappointing to hear by a processing sector which has never worked harder to sustain and develop Scotland’s red meat industry.”