Farming unions slam retailers over beef price share

UK farming unions have called for retailers to increase farmers’ share of beef prices, “or risk undermining future supplies”.

With prices falling dramatically over recent months, and farmers’ share of the retail price of beef at its lowest level for almost five years, the unions are concerned those currently finishing cattle for the market are likely to be struggling to break even.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said retail figures show that the average price for beef on shop shelves sat at 557p per kilo at the start of 2010 and has risen steadily to 709p per kg in July of this year. However, the farmers’ share of the retail price has, in the past year, fallen from 62% to less than 48%.

NFU Beef Chairman, Andy Foot, said: “The key point is that consumers are losing out as well as producers. The retailers are playing a dangerous game. The upshot being that consumers will vote with their feet while farmers will reduce production. All this comes off the back of the Defra Beef Summit in July. So again, government talk the talk but fail to walk the walk.”

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said: “For the primary producer to receive less than half the retail value of beef is totally unacceptable given the amount of time, cost and risk taken on by Scottish beef farmers in getting this premium product to market.

“It was inevitable that farmgate prices would adjust from the historic highs seen just under a year ago but we have concerns that the price correction is now being exploited by retailers – using lower prices for cattle and higher retail prices to consumers to squeeze more margin out of the market for themselves.”

Miller criticised reatilers for having too short-term a vision: “That margin grab is a double edged sword. Figures show that the public expenditure on beef is broadly static. Given that retail prices are going up, that means the public are taking home less beef. It would be a far more positive approach were retailers to use that increased margin to more fairly reward producers at the sharp end and more actively promote Scotch beef to the consumer to help grow the market. That would benefit the whole beef chain and grow the market.”

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