SCOTLAND'S food industry was rocked by the news this week that restrictions placed on seasonal and migrant labour could leave the industry well short of requirements and stymie ambitions to double the country's food export to £30bn by 2030.

The news is sure to be a hot topic at the Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) inaugural 'MEAT: The Future' conference, in Glasgow, this Tuesday, February 25.

Very much in the vanguard of the ambitious growth plans by Scotland Food and Drink, QMS' conference will be showcasing a diverse line-up of world-class speakers from across the globe and will be attended by more than 400 people involved in the Scottish red meat industry.

Its aim is to look at ways that the whole supply chain can work together to support, develop, promote and protect the red meat sector both now and in the future, according to QMS chair, Kate Rowell.

"I am hugely proud of the beef, lamb and pork produced in Scotland. As well as earning a global reputation for its outstanding taste, our quality assured Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork has an exceptionally strong story to tell in terms of sustainability and animal health and welfare.

"There’s no doubt that there are a huge number of challenges ahead of us in both the short and longer term – with Brexit, a difficult media landscape, changing consumer behaviour and the biggest one of all, climate change, all featuring extensively in conversations throughout the industry.

"However, there are most certainly opportunities for us to increase sales of Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI and Specially Selected Pork both here in the UK and overseas, and delegates at the conference will hear from internationally renowned speakers about how we can work together as a supply chain to seize and maximise these opportunities.

One of the keynote addresses at the conference will be delivered by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Fergus Ewing, and he will be backed by some of the best international brains in the world to deliver a more positive message from an industry battered by miss-informed comment on how it impacts on climate change and the environment.

"Climate change is, of course, an issue which has come rapidly up the news and political agenda and is now the dominant factor in future policy making for both agriculture and the wider economy," Mrs Rowell told The Scottish Farmer.

"Scotland has set a target of net zero emissions by 2045, and our sector must play its part in reaching this. We are in an incredibly strong position, as no other part of the economy has the ability to become such a big part of the solution, and we should grasp this opportunity with both hands.

"At the moment, we are being cast as the villains of the piece, but I believe it won’t take much for us to become the heroes," added Mrs Rowell.

At the conference, she will highlight post-Brexit market access to Europe as a key concern to the industry, as this market takes more than 90% of Scottish beef and sheep meat exports. "Equally important, though, will be the terms of trade for European and global imports to the UK and Scotland in a post- Brexit era, as the rest of the UK is the destination for around two-thirds of Scottish abattoir output and significant numbers of live animals," she added.

"However, even though Brexit uncertainty is casting an unwelcome shadow over trade, recent export figures clearly demonstrate overseas demand for our world-renowned brands – Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI."