CONSULTATION SUBMISSION MLC / QMSMonday, 24th Jun 2002
This Federation is not in favour of the devolution of services away from the central resource base at Milton Keynes. SFMTA is sad to see the demise of the MLC who in the past has been very supportive of the Scottish butcher.
The resources at Milton Keynes have been developed over the last thirty years into a centre of excellence that is the envy of many other countries meat industry. The technical knowledge, the facilities and the human resources that have come together over the years will be extremely difficult to replace.
Devolution of political power to Scotland and to Wales on its own is unlikely to have been the driver towards the proposed changes with MLC/ QMS/ ACC(Wales). Moves have already occurred that have delivered greater autonomy in promotion of Scotch and Welsh meat. To have reached this stage without the broad support of all sectors of the meat industry is disappointing and concerning. Nevertheless we recognise that the move is already well underway but would like to raise the following points in an effort to ensure the continued supply of valuable services and to minimise what we feel is inevitably to be at an increased cost to the industry.
Beef, lamb, pork, Scotland, England and Wales have all historically been working together to maximise the sale of meat in the UK. Now we are heading towards three species promotion bodies in each of the three geographical areas who are also competing with each other for business. It doesnt really help the meat business at all.
While the proposal paper on QMS states that QMS will continue to invest in MLC services, each sector has been using the support differently and possibly without understanding the value of the services that MLC has supplied to each others sectors. Whether it is market forecasting, economic analysis, technical development or retail research, each sector will spell out the services that they would not want to lose.
SFMTA would like to highlight the MLC services that they have found most helpful:-
Product demonstration and development
Dick Van Leuwan and Viv Harvey have regularly visited Scotland and demonstrated new cutting techniques, innovation in boning and processing, and new meat product ideas. SFMTA hold regional meetings where trade suppliers are encouraged to use their ingredients but the preference would be to use industry specialists who could give impartial advice.
Product and Skills competitions
MLC have organised a number of product evaluation events where new products are introduced and promotion has resulted from the awards from such events. Their commitment to training has been demonstrated through their support for skills competitions, Four Nations competitions and international competitions. This support for the future of the meat industry has been commendable and rewarding.
Publications and videos
Publications such as Shelf Life for Fresh Meat, Classification etc. Videos on Customer Service and Cutting technique are just some that spring to mind. Both mediums have expensive origination costs and it would make good economic sense for MLC to continue this role.
MLC monitors new legislation proposals, they work to ensure that legislative requests are reasonable and workable. This is an increasingly complex area and one that SFMTA use regularly. Michael Fogden at Milton Keynes would definitely be one of our nominations for "Phone a friend".
His advice is invaluable, his answers immediate and his accessibility is first class.
Educational advice to schools; information to health professionals. This is an extremely important area requiring specialist input. Usually nutritional advice but MLC Home Economist in Scotland, Elaine Brown has often been sent into Scottish schools to balance adverse meat production and meat eating comments and vegetarian lobby material.
Guild of Q Butcher
This UK wide quality assurance scheme for independent butchers has traditionally benefited from MLC support. Although their membership is small [circa 250] their influence is great and the Guild serves to drive up standards and provide aspirations. QMS have suggested that the Guild of Q Butchers would be construed as competition for the QMS Specially Select Butchers Scheme. There is unlikely to be room for many schemes in the independent butcher sector and butchers will not want inspection after inspection as each scheme calls to check on them. If QMS are intent on pursuing a scheme that includes independent butchers then where schemes are operating to EN45011, credits should be available in both directions.
Sales Development Managers
Richard Sneddon and previously Jim Cruickshank and Phil Wagstaffe have been available to develop sales promotions with independent butchers. These SDMs have been able to assess the mood of the independent, influence their investment decisions and provide valuable advice. QMS will need a man in the shops to fully understand the changing face and changing needs of the marketplace.
No matter whether it is BSE, E Coli 0157, Foot and Mouth Disease or Colon Cancer scares, the industry consistently has been able to draw on the expertise of the MLC to guide the industry spokespersons and associations through the problem. We feel experience at MLC is too great to consider covering crisis management in any alternative manner.
Along with fears about the potential loss of MLC services SFMTA members have asked whether QMS would attempt to replicate some of the income streams that MLC had achieved over the years.
The Consultation Paper details the role of QMS and this Federation welcomes the statement in paragraph 9 "it is envisaged that the role of QMS will broaden to become the focal point for red meat strategy development and delivery for Scotland.
Further to that however SFMTA feel that the following points should be noted:
Since QMS assumed the promotional role in Scotland from MLC we have seen a single-minded concentration of resources on Specially Selected Scotch (SSS). This is a move that SFMTA finds impossible to endorse. While many independent butchers are buying farm assured stock at auction marts the meat seldom gets sold with the SSS tag. Even if it could be labelled SSS there is unease about whether or not the independent should use the label.
The recent Scotpigs / Ormiston Farm affair has undermined the belief in SSS of the retailer and his customer. Over and above that there is the long running questioning about whether the same label in independents actually strengthens the similarly labelled product in the supermarket. SFMTA supports QMS suggestion that an Independent Butcher overprint would be desirable.
If paragraph 9 does broaden QMS approach then that will be welcomed by independents but the messages that they have heard so far would not suggest that the focus will be substantially different from their current objectives which major on SSS. Paragraph 9 should provide the opportunity to promote Scotch red meat. The aim should be to raise the standards across the whole industry and not to encourage a two tier structure which infers lower standards for non SSS meat. This is extremely dangerous in a situation where SSS has not got the largest share of the Scottish market.
In the past provision of MLC services has been accessible to all sectors of the industry whether large or small. We fear that QMS will take a more focussed approach that will not include everyone, especially those with no interest in SSS.
QMS support is just for Scotch meat but in the past Scottish butchers got promotional support for selling British Meat. Consequently in future the Scottish butcher will get no promotional support for selling that product.
In this context livestock crossing borders within the UK will generate levy collection in a country which will provide no promotional support for that product.
The emphasis on SSS as projected within the Overall Priorities of the 2002/03 QMS Business Plan will reduce the amount of promotional material and support available to Scottish butchers.
The decline of the independent sector as the multiples take a greater hold
will always need addressed and we feel that is something that MLC have always supported.
The role of QMS as described in the proposal is commendable and acceptable but it is impossible to interpret the balance of priorities and the degree of commitment that QMS will arrive at.
Recent experiences suggest QMS do not co-ordinate the industry in the same way MLC have done. There is no promotional calendar and no feeling of inclusion in decisions. The lack of Scottish meat industry expertise within QMS and the trend towards contracting of staff with little or no industry experience does not fill SFMTA with great confidence.
With QMS being responsible for all MLC functions within Scotland they are going to require specialist input which at the moment lies with MLC.
Specific MLC services should be contracted at an early stage to ensure that they do not disappear during the period of uncertainty which has been prolonged.
If QMS is to be responsible for all the work previously carried out in Scotland by MLC they are going to require a much wider angled lens. We believe that the requirement to promote all Scotch meat whether quality assured or not is going to pose QMS many hard decisions. The preferred promotion route of this Federation is to support generic Scotch Meat promotion.
Economies of scale will not be maximised under the proposed system. The Scottish retail industry fears the threat of future cost implications. If costs are held there is also a danger of the industry receiving less in benefit than from the previous MLC structure.
SFMTA is extremely disappointed in the direction that has been chosen but will work with QMS to achieve the best outcome for the Scottish industry.