It is now six months since Humza Yousaf became Scotland’s first minister and I am sure that during this time I’m not sure that he has tackled the issues that hold back the Scottish economy despite what he’d like us to believe.

Earlier this month the Department for Business and Trade in Westminster announced that a further 10 new Export Champions for Scotland had been appointed to the Export Champions scheme an initiative that sits within Scottish Development International (SDI)

They join the thirteen appointments made last year, “ensuring a broad range of sector expertise is in place.”

Scotland’s highly valuable meat industry doesn’t have a stand-alone Export Champion so is instead represented by two employees from two biscuit businesses, Nairn's Oatcakes and Walker's Shortbread!

READ MORE: Norman Bagley discusses “Farm to Fork” promise...

Looking at the SDI website, information on exporting meat isn’t immediately apparent. However, I did finally find it by following the ‘Buy from Scotland’ tab, followed by the ‘Consumer Industries’ tab, and then the ‘Foodservice’ tab which, after scrolling some way down the page finally took me to a drop-down headed ‘Scottish Beef and Lamb’ which included:

When it comes to rearing prime beef, lamb, and pork, our farmers go for quality, not quantity.

Compared with most other livestock-producing countries, Scottish herds are small.  

The meat produced is globally famed for its flavour and succulence, commanding premium prices on the world stage. Our prime beef and lamb are to be found on some of the best menus, with some big-name chefs often stipulating that they will only cook and serve Scotch Beef.  

To find out more about sourcing ‘Scottish beef and Lamb’ I needed to follow a hyperlink. This took me to a general page which made no mention of either beef or lamb!

However, there was a further hyperlink called “More about trading internationally from Scottish Enterprise”.

READ MORE: Norman Bagley talks all things export in this month's column

Following that hyperlink and finding myself on the Scottish Enterprise page there were several links to follow depending on whether you were a new or an existing exporter.

Clicking ‘existing exporter’ brought me up with several other options, one of which was ‘Explore Export Opportunities’.

Following this and applying a filter to find food export markets brought up 5 opportunities. The first was posted on 18th August 2021, the second on 16th December 2022, and the remaining 3 all on 19th December 2022.

Of those five, just one, I felt, might be of interest to the meat sector. Published 18th August 2021 which was for the Middle East. It said:

One of the opportunities is seafood for food service channel, trade insight the annual consumption of fish per person in the UAE is 33 kg, while the average international consumption is 18 kg. Salmon and trout are the leading imported species in the GCC.

This opportunity also includes all types of ambient products, including value-added ingredients and mixes, that go into the food service channel. For retail, the premium category, the ones that are most sought after in the GCC are: snacking, confectionery, soups, non-alcoholic drinks, condiments, meat alternatives, cakes, cheeses, water, and ice cream.

No mention of either Scotch Beef or Scotch Lamb.

It did reference ‘religious sensitivities around selling and consuming alcohol’ but nothing else. Why?

Well, in short, and despite Mr. Yousaf being a Muslim, the UK Government has established a trade barrier based on being “hampered by halal requirements”.

READ MORE: Norman Bagley discusses the future of QMS in his column

The New Zealanders and the Australians are not similarly ‘hampered’. Their beef and lamb, like most of the UK’s Halal production, is derived from stunned animals.

Given that Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religious group (Source: Pew Research Centre) it follows that Halal must be one of, if not, the fastest-growing food brands in the world.

I returned to Scottish Enterprise’s home page which has the bold statement “Helping businesses to transform Scotland’s economy” and using the search function entered the word ‘beef’.

I was expecting something far more positive than “No results found, please try another search” but, following that instruction to ‘try another search’ I entered ‘Lamb’ getting the same result.

For the record, entering ‘salmon’, ‘whisky’, ‘shortbread’ and even the word ‘export’ all returned “No results found, please try another search”.

Imagine, for one moment an international buyer looking to Scotland to supply them with premium beef and lamb and then look at the outdated and convoluted journey they must take through a myriad of internet tabs and portals to finally be told “No results found, please try another search”.

I know what I’d do, search the trade web pages from the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, etc. all of whom see the value that their high-quality meat can offer overseas markets.

As for Scotland’s Government, they appear to be much happier talking a good game than playing one!