Beef association calls for pricing support for farmers

The South West regional branch of the National Beef Association (NBA) has called for more support for farmers on pricing. 

It has called for high-specification cattle meeting the highest welfare standards should be marketed under a new branding, giving farmers more chance of a decent return.

Bill Harper, chairman of the NBA South West council, said: “It is essential government ministers play more of a role. Balance has to exist in the supply chain before our country’s self-sufficiency in food is jeopardised any more.

“Further damage to food security levels is inevitable if giant processors are not held to account by mandatory trade codes overseen by a Grocery Adjudicator which has the necessary powers. Processors have effectively decided their suppliers must cover the rise in any operational costs.

“Before the election, potential MPs were keen to pledge their support for a meaningful Grocery Adjudicator that was prepared to stand its ground. Now is the ideal opportunity for government to act on its pledges and move things forward. This is important to smaller family farms, as well as every food shopper, the rural community and the economy as a whole.”

Harper also urged dialogue between farmers and meat buyers to discuss rising processing costs.

His comments came as St Merryn Food, a branch of 2 Sisters, announced that charges would be increasing to £19.20 for processing a beef animal and to £1.95 for a lamb, citing ‘dramatic’ rises in waste disposal and rendering charges.

The NBA argued that the only outcome of the increase had been fewer cattle produced as beef farmers looked to alternative land uses more likely to remain viable. It said the change was instigated with no consultation or prior notice to its producers.

“St Merryn Meat’s disregard for the voluntary Code of Practice – which it signed up to less than a year ago – only serves to further confirm these Codes of Practice are not working.”

When announcing the rise, St Merryn said it had held back on increasing the charges, but “challenging trading conditions” meant it had to recover some of the increased costs.

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