Midlands group seeks be tter deal

National Beef Association members in southern England are planning to form a Midlands Producer Group to enable them to negotiate better prices for their cattle.

The group, which is being led by Buckinghamshire farmer Ray Lloyd, of Valley Farm, Ashenden, Aylesbury, will meet at the end of January to discuss the move which will allow a group sale of

at least 20,000 head/year to a single buyer.

Lloyd said NBA members were being forced to act due to unrelenting price pressure from the biggest slaughterers in the region - including Southern Counties Fresh Foods, St Merryn Meat and The Chitty Food Group.

"Feeders in the South of England and the Midlands rely heavily on a handful of abattoirs, which tend to share the same customers and recently appear to have made a deliberate move to force purchase prices even further below the

national average," explained Lloyd. "Removal of subsidy through de-coupling has made feeders totally dependent on the market. So it is more important than ever for finishers to find out for themselves which company is willing to pay the most for their cattle and then work hard to make sure this customer gets exactly what they want when they want it."

Lloyd expects the biggest fee-ders under a line to the south of Birmingham will be the most likely to respond. He said: "Early soundings indicate that even if only a dozen professionals join in, we will have around 20,000 cattle/year at our disposal which should be enough to make any buyer interested - especially if supplies shorten."

Lloyd added that NBA members were approaching this project with a completely open mind and would examine all the options available to them.

"Our hope is that we will find buyers who want specially produced cattle for a premium-priced retail market and, once we have discovered who these are,

we will study their offer and make a decision."

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