REPRESENTATIVES of the Scottish beef industry have written to Defra (Department for Food and Rural Affairs) Secretary Owen Paterson seeking his assistance and support in reopening a lucrative market for Scotch beef in Japan.

Recent Scottish food trade missions to China, Japan, and Hong Kong have identified that there is growing demand in the Far East for quality food products, such as Scotch beef. However, the Japanese market has been closed to red meat exports from Europe since the BSE crisis.

Japanese authorities have been in negotiations with some individual EU member states over reopening their markets to beef and Scottish beef farmers are keen to see the UK actively engaged in a similar dialogue with Japan. Reopening a beef trade with Japan would follow similar recent success in having the beef ban to Russia lifted.

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The letter, which was signed by NFUS, National Beef Association, Scottish Beef Cattle Association, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers and the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraiser in Scotland, states that the growth of beef consumption in China and south east Asia offers a golden opportunity for Scottish producers.

NFUS President Nigel Miller said: "Here in the UK, we have some of the highest levels of traceability and safety in the world and that is backed up in Scotland by our farm assurance scheme and our specially selected Scotch beef brand.

"Defra's recent success in securing a lift on the ban on exports of British beef to Russia shows what can be achieved and we believe there is merit in directing resources towards securing a similar export deal with Japan."

Around 14,200 Scottish farmers and crofters will receive their Single Farm Payment on Monday – an increase of around 4% on 2011 – injecting approximately £303m into the rural economy.

Payments are being issued to farmers who have successfully passed the Scottish Government's eligibility checks. Because of European Commission conditions attached to payments, those who have outstanding inspections or other eligibility issues cannot be paid until these have been resolved.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Our priority now will be to work with producers to resolve any problems and pay remaining claims as quickly as possible. I would urge all concerned to ensure that they respond promptly to any requests that will help us to settle their claims."

Market round-up

UNITED Auctions sold 269 store bullocks at Stirling on Wednesday to a top of 213.5p per kg and an average of 192.6p (+0.3p on the week), while 194 store heifers peaked at 215.9p and levelled at 183.1p (+1.8p).

In the rough ring, 139 cast cows averaged 123.5p.