The establishment of a farm-to-fork supply chain that would guarantee fair returns for everyone involved in the Scottish beef industry is being explored by the farmers’ union.
As prices continue to languish at below cost of production for many producers, NFU Scotland (NFUS) president, Andrew McCornick has appealed to union members to consider the prospect of collaborating with one another, not only for financial benefits, but to create more effective promotion, new product development and give the industry the ability to challenge the anti-meat lobby with a united voice .
Mr McCornick told a briefing that getting farmers into the same place at the same time was like “herding cats”.
He added: “That is a real weakness which can be exploited by others in the supply chain who, themselves, are busy fighting each other for market share and therefore selling our high quality, safe, traceable product on price and not on value.
“We need to bring retailers, procurement services, processors, finishers, breeders and promotion bodies into a room to identify what collectively is needed from the supply chain at each step to get an end product the consumer wants.”
Mr McCornick insisted everyone in the chain could benefit from it.
“Farmers will have a way of pooling supply to match demand and agreeing to deliver to a specification exactly when it is wanted.
Processors will have a managed supply to an agreed specification, matching demand of retailers and food services.
“Both could involve a new form of contract which adds value,” he said.
“Retailers and food services can benefit from guarantees of high-quality high spec product as and when wanted. This would then generate feedback for the primary producer, and the cycle goes on by improving at each revolution.”
For the idea to work, Mr McCornick said it would require facilitation doing the logistics that could group, batch, coordinate and drive each part of the chain to keep the wheels turning at the right time.
Models already exist in the milk, fruit and vegetable sectors, and the union is in discussions with others to see if a model could be delivered.
Mr McCornick conceded there was no silver bullet that would solve all the industry’s problems all at once, but added: “We must improve knowledge of each part’s role; where value can be added and where margin can be found.
“This means working for mutual benefit by building trust, understanding constraints or demands, and breaking down barriers within the entire supply chain.”