Tingwall farmer Cecil Eunson has been named the new chairman of Shetland Livestock Marketing Group at the organisation’s annual general meeting last night.
Mr Eunson, of Griesta Farm, takes over the reigns from Ronnie Eunson, who has stood down after nine years.
Ronnie Eunson has maintained a key involvement in the sector, and has overseen the development of the abattoir next to the marts.
Last night he renewed his criticism against Shetland Islands Council for its procurement strategy, insisting not enough was being done to support local produce.
The East Voe producer raised the matter last month when he presented the findings of a report into the marts and abattoir by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society.
That meeting was attended by head of development, Neil Grant. But the outgoing chairman said nothing had happened since.
“I asked for a comment from Shetland Islands Council on what they were going to do about it because after the meeting the director of development told me he was keen to establish a dialogue,” said Mr Eunson.
“He wanted examples of where there were local authorities that did things differently. That information was supplied to them, but they have decided not to come back with any comment at all.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Grant said the issue was being taken seriously.
“There are two ways of looking at this – there is the benefits of procuring locally and there’s getting the best procurement deal for the council.
“That takes working through with different parts of the council services. It’s something I am working with, and I will get back when I am in a position to do so.”
He added the council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise were co-funding the Shetland Food and Drink group.
The SAOS report also highlighted difficulties with land used for lairage, with the council implementing plans to develop part of the land needed for the marts. But Mr Grant said extra land was being provided to offset the difficulties.
There are two ways of looking at this – there is the benefits of procuring locally and there’s getting the best procurement deal for the council. NEIL GRANT
“The other thing Ronnie was speaking about was the lairage up at Staney Hill. The land owned by the council is leased out in commercial terms.
“In terms of making any adjustments to what we currently do, I would point out some of the land is being developed at the moment. Other land is being provided to basically offset that. There is more land provided back than what was taken.”
Last night’s meeting heard of a drop in throughput of animals at the marts. But in the last financial year the abattoir made a small operating surplus of £1,577, while the same figure for the marts stood at just under £1,400.
Ronnie Eunson urged producers to support the marts.
“We’ve managed to retain quite a good share of the available livestock. Livestock has dropped in Shetland, but proportionally we’ve retained a fairly big percentage of that livestock. I would urge anyone considering selling livestock to give urgent consideration to using the marts. We have two main competitors, in so much we have people willing to buy from the mainland directly, and Aberdeen and Northern Marts at Thainstone. Sales [here] are being run in a very good fashion.
“The thing the abattoir has going for it is that there is potential to make that considerably more if there is more local demand for the meat.
“I would say that the co-operative, bearing in mind the state of the industry, is not doing too badly. It’s done quite a lot of things right. We have done a lot of things wrong, or there are things which could have been done better, but I’d like to think at this stage of the game it’s in reasonably fine fettle.”
In an interesting twist, ways of increasing business are being explored, such as looking beyond just livestock to cater for items, such as books or antiques. That follows the closure of the Lerwick sales room in King Harald Street.
Cecil Eunson said he was looking forward to the positive challenge of leading the marketing group.
The directors, bolstered by new member Aaron Sinclair from Sandlodge, Sandwick, thanked Ronnie Eunson, of Uradale Farm, for his work.
“If it was not for Ronnie we’d question whether there really would be a slaughter house here,” said Mr Sinclair.