British Farming Matters

As the NFU launches a campaign to highlight the importance of Britain's livestock industry, a survey has revealed that most UK consumers want to buy British.

According to the survey- carried out by YouGov Plc- 72% of consumers want to be able to buy British beef and lamb and 80% believe supermarkets should be offering farmers a fair deal.

The results lend weight to the NFU's 'Why beef and sheep farming matters' campaign, which was lauched yesterday (13 November) in association with the Townsmen's Guild, the Women's Food and Farming Union, the National Council of Women, EBLEX, The Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Farmers Guardian.

The campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the current crisis facing the UK's livestock sector and encouraging people to buy British.

The NFU has said that beef and sheep farmers must be paid fair prices for their livestock if they are to stay in production.

If beef and sheep farmer numbers continue to fall at the current rate- 12,500 in the last ten years- British meat could soon be in short supply and areas of the British countryside such as Dartmoor, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lakeland Fells could suffer from under-grazing and agricultural dereliction.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: "It doesn't surprise me at all that the vast majority of consumers want to buy British beef and lamb.

"But the plain fact is that unless farmers' prices start to rise, to fill the yawning gap between what it costs to produce beef cattle and sheep and what farmers are paid for them, British beef and lamb will become niche products.

"That will be bad for consumers, bad for farming, bad for employment in the meat industry and bad for the countryside.

NFU livestock board chairman Thomas Binns said: "Since 2004, the beef herd in England has fallen by 11 per cent and the sheep breeding flock by over 10 per cent.

"Even more worrying for the future is the decline in the number of younger beef cattle in the pipeline - down by 15 per cent in just four years.

"And these figures are taken from the June 2007 agricultural census - before the devastating outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and bluetongue, and the impact which they are bound to have had, on sheep numbers especially."

TV chef Jamie Oliver has thrown his weight behind the campaign, calling on shoppers to buy more British beef and lamb and create meals which are both healthy and versatile.

He said: "Now is time for a call to action to help our British farmers. It's been a tough year for them and for many it's just getting worse."

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