Former Commissioner upsets beef association

Business secretary Peter Mandelson might be in pain over a kidney stone this week, but it is his letter-writing that has also caused discomfort for the meat sector.

The Scottish Beef Cattle Association (SBCA) has expressed anger over a letter it received from the former trade commissioner regarding the impact that World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform would have on the Scottish beef industry.

SBCA development executive Brian Simpson said the former commissioner was out of touch and "showed little concern for European farmers".

"Mr Mandelson must be deluded. He concludes that we have a stable position for beef, particularly in the grass areas. Yet he accepts that the European supply will drop by a massive 10% and Scottish Government statistics clearly demonstrate the continuing decline in production of beef in Scotland. Nothing in Mr Mandelson's letter gives comfort that this will quickly reverse."

In the letter, Mandelson explained that beef imports would be essential to maintain the EU market, adding that EU beef production and consumption are expected to fall.

"In order to maintain certain price stability, it is important to ensure a number of reliable suppliers of quality beef from outside the EU, as long as our strict sanitary conditions are expected," he wrote.

"Within the EU we expect, over the next 10 years, a decline of the beef/veal meat production of about 10% while, at the same time, the per capita consumption is estimated to decrease by 5.5%."

He said that, despite this, domestic producers face a positive future, citing the rural development policies of the Common Agriculture Policy as measures that could give future security to Scottish beef producers.

SBCA officials have called for an end to Brazilian beef imports to the EU and described the future of beef farming being "on a knife edge".

Simpson said: "Stopping Brazilian beef and healing destructive WTO proposals, which Mandelson favoured, shows what can be done by presenting the facts coupled with professional lobbying."