NFU calls for beef industry “vision”

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has responded to falling beef prices as anger from beef cattle farmers grows.

In a statement the NFU said falling prices were a major concern for the British livestock industry and called for a “vision for the beef industry”.  

According to the NFU and Farmers For Action (FFA), the volatility of beef prices has been caused by cheaper Irish and European imports undercutting British beef cattle. Both reported that beef cattle farmers are angry that, a year after the horsemeat scandal, retailers are favouring cheaper imports instead of upholding commitments made to British beef.

NFU chairman of the Livestock Board Charles Sercombe said: “There have been calls from the processing industry that we need a vision for the beef industry. The NFU has already outlined its vision for the beef industry and we want to work with organisations across the supply chain to achieve the aims we set out in it.

“The whole industry must come together to work to ensure that consumers can continue to enjoy a sustainable supply of British beef and that all parts of the chain receive a sustainable reward from the market.”

The FFA has launched a campaign against falling prices and told Meatinfo last week that protests outside abattoirs and retailers could be held as early as this week. FFA chairman David Handley stated: “We can no longer sit back and watch beef prices collapse in the way they are.”

The NFU outlined priority areas for action for the industry, including: retailers actively promoting British beef on shelves through clear labelling and point of sale; processors working with producers to outline longer-term pricing arrangements to allow farmers to plan; future changes in specification or the level of deductions for out-of-spec cattle being properly justified and any changes introduced with lead-in periods for producers and with better communication; and retailers and processors working with the NFU to develop risk management options for beef farmers.

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association, told Meatinfo that producers, processors and retailers need to take a long-term view: “Collectively we need a longer, more strategic view of the market. Efficient livestock farmers should be able to make a fair return and everyone is interested that they have confidence in the supply chain to produce meat for the future.”

However, Rossides continued: “Efficient farmers deserve a fair price, but too many producers are not as efficient as they can and should be. They should not look at returns, but look at costs and what they can do to control them to become more efficient.”

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