A LARGER pot of cash has been committed to the cross border work being done by the red meat promotional boards of Scotland, England and Wales.

It was announced today that the size of the overall ring-fenced fund for joint work will increase from £2million to £3.5m, with the additional investment focused on 'bolstering the reputation of meat with consumers, addressing misconceptions and promoting the benefits of sustainable meat consumption'.

All three bodies – AHDB, Quality Meat Scotland and Meat Promotion Wales – are funded by levies collected off the value of livestock at the point of slaughter, but the issue of the 'lost' levy collected off Scottish livestock sold into England for slaughter has become a sore point in recent years, with the Scottish industry seeking repatriation of the funds to increase the available budget for marketing the Scotch red meat brands.

Although this repatriation has been agreed in principle, in practice its implementation has been caught up in the Brexit logjam at Westminster. As a stopgap, two years ago, the three levy boards were given £2m of funding to conduct joint work of benefit to all the UK red meat brands. Last year Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing wrote to the then Secretary of State at Defra Theresa Villiers to call for that pot of levy monies to be doubled to £4 million to enable the three bodies to continue to work together to mitigate the 'serious' issues facing the red meat sector and 'better reflect the value of what a proper repatriation scheme would deliver'.

That request has now been at least partially answered, announced in a joint statement from the three levy boards: “The current ring-fenced fund has been a fantastic opportunity for us to work more closely together to further the interests of the British meat sector.

“While this remains an interim step before redistribution of levies takes place, we believe the time is right to strengthen this collaboration and increase the overall investment made in the joint fund for the next 12 months.

“The industry is under tremendous pressure and we feel we can make even bigger progress on market development and export work, to find new markets for our products overseas, and the ongoing reputation work to promote all that is good and defend the industry from myths and misinformation.”

Mr Ewing responded: “I am delighted that the levy bodies working collaboratively with each other have agreed proposals for a mechanism to increase the ring fenced fund to £3.5 million. This will provide a significant opportunity for the levy bodies, working with our Governments, to strengthen their collective activities to improve the interests of the UK red meat industry.

“I want to thank the joint working of QMS, AHDB and HCC in agreeing the increase, and in particular I would like to thank Sir Peter Kendall the Chair of AHDB. Once again, the collaborative working of the levy bodies has delivered for the sector and we congratulate them on their efforts.”

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick commented: “It's never been more important that every part of the industry collaborates to ensure that our fantastic story on sustainable, climate-friendly meat production is heard by all.

“Our reputation for producing beef, lamb and pork to the highest standards is both fully justified and hard won. Collaboration between meat promotion bodies in Great Britain in 2019 and 2020 has sent out a united, strengthened message on behalf of levy payers. Using the additional funding announced today to bolster the reputation of meat with consumers, addressing the misconceptions being perpetuated by some and promoting the many benefits of sustainable meat consumption in the diet will be well received by Scottish livestock producers.”