UK farming unions outline measures needed to address beef price crisis

The presidents of four of the main UK farming unions have met at the 100th Royal Welsh Show at Llanelwedd, in Wales, to call for “urgent and collaborative action” to support beef farmers.

Such is the seriousness of the latest beef price crisis, the four UK farming union presidents John Davies, NFU Cymru; Minette Batters, NFU; Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland; and Ivor Ferguson, Ulster Farmers’ Union have come together to agree on a set of measures that need to be urgently implemented to address the situation.

A statement issued by the four read: “The UK beef sector is at crisis point: We’ve seen downward pressure on farmgate prices throughout the year and this dire situation cannot, and must not, be allowed to continue.

While we accept that this is a complex situation and there are a number of factors affecting this drop in price, beef farmers cannot continue to sustain this decrease any longer. Let us be absolutely clear – the sustainability of UK beef production is at stake here.

“Together, we are calling for action across the whole supply chain – farmers, levy bodies, processors, retailers and the foodservice sector – to bring the UK beef industry back from the brink.”

They also announced a collaborative five-point action plan:

  • Intense and co-ordinated period of product promotion and innovation by retailers and processors to help stimulate demand for safe, high-quality, fully-traceable Red Tractor beef;
  • The UK levy bodies must continue to raise awareness around the values behind UK beef production, both at home and abroad, and support the export, retail and foodservice sectors to deliver on new opportunities, such as the recently opened Chinese market;
  • Clearer marketing on country of origin and sourcing at the point of sale for all beef products;
  • Governments across the UK to urgently review their public procurement commitments with an emphasis on UK sourcing;
  • Governments across the UK must assess the impact on the UK beef market of the €100 million cash boost provided to Irish beef farmers, while considering mitigating measures to protect UK beef production.

The statement from the four UK farming union presidents continued: “We have, as a matter of urgency, called on the main UK retailers and foodservice providers to urge action to alleviate the issue.

“We have seen some excellent support from some UK retailers – most notably from the Co-op, Morrisons, Waitrose, M&S, Lidl and Aldi – in selling 100% fresh British beef. This demonstrates there is strong consumer demand to buy British beef.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Iceland represent around 59.6% of the grocery market, which clearly shows that very significant potential exists and more can be done.

“The foodservice sector also has a critical and increasingly important role to play and we are also calling on them to increase the country of origin labelling of beef products on menus and back this up by providing clear sourcing policies to consumers.

“We need the UK Government to ensure that we retain free and frictionless trade with the EU whilst opening up new export markets, ensuring any imports are subject to the same high-quality standards that we are quite rightly proud of.

“We need greater transparency within the supply chain with a fair and equitable split of risk and reward alongside greater retail, foodservice sector and processor collaboration with the producer.”