SBCA Rejects Bluetongue Protection Zone Widening Proposal

SCOTLAND - The Scottish Beef Cattle Association has taken issue with its English-based counterpart the National Beef Association who have called for Scotland to be included in a GB-wide bluetongue protection zone.
calendar icon 5 November 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

NFU Scotland has also criticised the NBA. In a statement a union spokesman said: "What they are calling for doesn't make sense. There is no way we can back a call for the whole of GB to be a protection zone at the moment - its a very dangerous move. If we go down that route we may as well wave a white flag to the disease.

SBCA's executive director Brian Simpson - speaking during a visit by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to Balbuthie run by SBCA president John Cameron on Friday said: "The SBCA fully backs the stance taken by NFUS against this ludicrous proposition from NBA to move stock from affected areas in England to Scotland. We have suffered more than enough from the failure to control disease in England and it is clear that Scotland has to take a strong stance to defend our disease status against unwarranted risks. We all want to keep market channels open, but not at any cost- especially when we have the prospect of winter weather wiping out the carrier of this disease and ultimately a dead vaccine to provide protection against further spread".

Confirming that SBCA had not been approached by NBA prior to announcing their proposal to make the whole of GB a protection zone Mr Simpson added: "The SBCA could not be party to a policy which could expose the Scottish livestock industry to this most dreadful and costly disease." During his visit to Balbuthie Mr Lochhead -who was later to address an open SBCA meeting in Perth Mart prior to its agm - saw a practical demonstration of latest electronic idetification techniques in cattle. Mr Cameron reminded Mr Lochhead that it was now seven years since his predecessor Ross Finnie promised farmers at a meeting in Kinross that Scotland would have its own EID scheme in place by 2001. Said Mr Cameron: " Today's demonstration clearly showed the huge technical advantages which are now available to the industry from the use of EID. Other countries have now introduced and financed statutory EID schemes giving their producers a major advantage. We heard only today that the Australian government has invested £20m in a nation-wide EID scheme for their farmers. I indicated to Mr Lochhead - who was clearly impressed with the potential of the new technology available - that the SBCA will be seeking early discussions in order to make this facility more freely available to Scottish beef producers."

During his address to the association's agm SBCA chairman Jim Kennedy stressed that the premium value of Scottish beef which had slipped in recent years had to be increased as a matter of urgency if producers were going to survive and prosper. Said Mr Kennedy: "The SBCA is totally focussed on the Scottish brand value and if this needs more competitive effort against English or Irish sourced beef then so be it. We know we have the support of 100% of our members." Pointing out that the main decisions taken in relation to pricing Scottish beef were taken by supermarket bosses based in London, Manchester, Leeds or Bradford, Mr Kennedy added: "Because of this situation it is a challenge to instil our enthusiasm on these people to get higher beef values but we must do so and we were greatly encouraged when officials from Waitrose met us earlier today."

Mr Kennedy added: "Our meat wholesalers sit between us and the retailers and we rely on them to negotiate and build value for Scottish beef with their retail customers - but where are their marketing decisions taken? A quick estimate of the ownership indicates that more than 70% of the Scottish abbatoir capacity is controlled from outwith Scotland and inevitably the value of the beef they supply from their Scottish plants is influenced by their requirement to be lowest cost suppliers of GB or Irish beef. This is another major challenge for Scottish beef farmers to overcome and its the aim of the SBCA to take the fight forward."

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