Beef industry faces "irretrievable decline"

The beef industry is in danger of "sleepwalking towards irretrievable decline", EBLEX has warned.

A special EBLEX report, 'In The Balance? The future of the English beef industry', highlights the 27 per cent decline in the breeding herd between 1990 and 2007 and, with it, beef production.

Despite current strong cattle prices, robust consumer demand and soaring exports, many producers are still making negative margins, and though current cattle prices appear strong, they are actually lower in real terms than they were in 1990, the report claims.

A longer term view needs to be taken by beef producers and processors, as well as the wider food industry, policy-makers, and concerned NGOs to secure the future of the beef industry, it argues.

EBLEX chairman John Cross said: "The short-termism of some key players in the beef supply chain, combined with the apparent lack of awareness on the part of policy-makers and the public of the steady attrition of the beef industry, means that we are sleep-walking towards the irretrievable decline of a critical part of our farming industry.

"However, this is not inevitable. The scope for technical and business improvement is very substantial, and it is vital that producers take up and apply existing technical knowledge.

"EBLEX is tackling this through its knowledge transfer work, with the aim of improving profitability and competitiveness to secure the future of the domestic beef industry. But others also need to play a role.

"This report aims to give a clear and shared appreciation of where the beef industry is now and where it is heading in the future, based on current trends, aiming to foster a more strategic debate about the future of our industry.

"All those with an interest in the English beef industry are urged to take a much more strategic view of the industry's current situation and its outlook."

The report also highlighted the fact UK self sufficiency in beef has fallen from 109% in 1995 to 80% in 2008, while beef consumption is 12% higher than it was in 1990. It also points out the fact greenhouse gas emissions from producers have fallen by 12% since 1990.

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