Meat price rises start to bite

Tightening supplies and increasing prices are beginning to bite for some in the meat sector, particularly in the foodservice market.

Catering butchers are beginning to feel the pinch as exports from South America have dropped away, having a knock on effect on UK prices, although retail butchers are yet to feel any serious effects.

Beef prices are steadily rising, with processors quoting prices of around 225p a kg, up from around 207p-215p late last year, with expectations of further upwards movement.

On imports, Liz Murphy from the International Meat Traders Association, said prices were proving difficult due to a lack of product coming out of Brazil - she said in some cases product was being traded between 30% to 50% higher.

At present, the main effect appears to be being felt in the catering sector, with few retail butchers reporting any significant issues.

Bill Dye, of Scott's Butchers in Carshalton, Surrey, said that while some beef prices were up, such as roasting and stewing beef, others had fallen.

However, James Freeman, of Freeman's Catering Butchers in Newcastle, described the situation as unstable.

"It's starting to have a detrimental effect on businesses. The days of buying cheap meat are over, even for the consumer," he said.

"We've seen price rises of 20% to 30% over the last month, and some of the farmers we're speaking to said they have not had such prices in over 30 years. There just doesn't seem to be enough meat around."

Stuart Roberts, director of the British Meat Processors Association, said there were a number of factors contributing to the price volatility, and said while prices would probably still rise for a while, they hoped it would level out soon.

The difficulty for the industry was while prices from producers and importers were increasing, retail prices were not.

"The people in the middle are starting to feel the squeeze, and unless we can increase the retail price, we're going to be in a difficult place."

Peter King, chief livestock advisor with the National Farmers' Union, said prices still needed to rise further for farmers, particularly lamb farmers to make a profit. "We've seen lamb prices jump by about 50p a kg, but they probably need another 30p to 40p for them to make a profit.

"This is the starting point, this is where we expected to be this time last year and we need to build on this sustainably."

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