NFU urges industry to ‘take responsibility’ on beef

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has met with union leaders to discuss falling beef prices and called for processors, retailers and caterers to “take responsibility”.

Union leaders from Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland and Wales met with the NFU in London as anger from farmers over falling farmgate prices. The NFU concluded that decisions made in the processing, catering and retail sectors had a direct impact on farmers’ returns and the sustainability of the British beef sector.

The NFU as well as Farmers For Action (FFA) reported that falling prices were a consequence of cheaper EU imports, especially from Ireland, which are undercutting British beef and a failure to uphold commitments to British beef made after the horsemeat scandal last year. However, processors have suggested that the over-supply of British beef and price fall is a result of lower consumption.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Consumers made it clear during horsegate that they value shorter supply chains, with provenance high on their agenda. At that time major retailers made statements of the importance of economically sustainable supply chains and a commitment to build confidence with producers for a long-term supply of beef. Now is the time that will test how deep those commitments run.”

As an example of best practice among processors, Waitrose and its beef supplier Dovecote Park were praised for their ongoing commitment to their producers. Raymond said: “All attendees were determined to work together to resolve the current issues facing the beef industry. I would urge other processors to look at what can be achieved by making long-term commitments to their suppliers, similar to Dovecote Park.”

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said British beef should also be exploiting more export markets. He said: “In a well-functioning market there should be sufficient margin in beef for everyone – the farmer, the processor and the retailer. For now we need to promote our product more widely, be it through the levy bodies working on export opportunities, or through retailers for what should be one of their headline products.

“With the Football World Cup coming up and the promise of more good weather, farmers will want to see British beef and lamb taking pride of place on the barbecue and on the shelves. We produce world-class meat; domestic and international consumers want it, farmers want to supply it, so it seems perverse that we are in the situation we are in now. What is needed is for there to be more trust and a concerted effort to build long-term relationships and sustainability in the chain.”

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