Urgent action needed to support British beef sector, warns NFU

With British beef markets down to a three-year low, NFU vice president Stuart Roberts is calling for urgent and united action to re-establish sustainable returns.

Roberts said that at such a critical time for the British beef industry, farmers, processors, retailers, Defra, and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) need to work together to find solutions to this emerging crisis.

He said: “There is a real danger that without urgent action, the supply chain and Government will see a bad situation rapidly worsen in the weeks ahead.

“Beef farmers want to see retailers and processors promote Red Tractor assured, Great British beef through in-store promotion backed by clear labelling on the packet and merchandising to help shoppers make informed choices about the origin of their purchases.

There is a real concern that with over 70% of cattle being processed by five or six companies who supply 10 retailers, this lack of competition allows value to be taken out of the market.

“We ask that farmers receive a fair and sustainable share of the retail value, which is not the case at present.

“Livestock producers also expect AHDB to prioritise its resources to support promotional efforts at home and abroad to increase consumption of British Red Tractor beef, highlighting the differential standards of UK production.

“I am also calling on AHDB to establish the impact of an October 31 Brexit date on overseas buyer confidence and the knock-on effects on the farm-gate price and adapt marketing appropriately.

€100 million Irish beef bail-out

“Defra also has important questions to answer – it’s several weeks since the EU approved the Irish Government’s €100 million beef crisis support package.

Livestock farmers want to know, what assessment has Defra made of this package? And with the majority of Irish beef entering the UK market, has this subsidy the potential to distort the UK beef price?

“Policies must be put in place now that will drive productivity and improve margins for those who keep beef cows and to help secure a better future for the British beef sector.”