One of Scotland’s most prominent beef farmers has accused Quality Meat Scotland of “drifting rudderless in a storm” while levy payers haemorrhage cash.
Jim Walker, the Dumfriesshire producer who is currently leading a beef sector taskforce for the Scottish Government, and a former QMS chairman himself, has written to Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing and QMS chief executive Alan Clarke criticising the levy body’s chairwoman, Kate Rowell, of failing to lead the beef industry during the crisis.
He refers to recent articles written by Ms Rowell in an industry magazine in which she does not mention the problems being experienced by cattle finishers or the imports of Irish beef into the UK.
Mr Walker writes: “(She mentions) nothing – not a peep. Just the usual claptrap about all working together and ‘staying united and helping each other’.
“It’s utterly unacceptable that with the sector that provides more levy income to you than any other in crisis, your chair has nothing to say about it. And more importantly is doing nothing about it.”
Mr Walker said he has been contacted by “dozens of big finishers from the north-east to the south-west of Scotland” who are equally frustrated with a lack of QMS leadership.
In response to the accusations, Mr Clarke issued a public statement saying QMS is involved in responding to the biggest market disruption ever in peacetime.
He said: “We have been working tirelessly to keep the red meat supply chain in Scotland functioning and it’s a real pity that some people in the industry cannot join the dots and understand the reality of what is happening re market dynamics.
“QMS is in daily contact with Scottish Government and key industry partners, together we are keeping the Scottish red meat supply chain open for business and pushing retailers to stock Scottish meat on Scottish shelves.”