Barr warns of red meat crisis at last MLC meeting

With red meat supplies tightening across Europe, MLC chairman Peter Barr has urged retailers to desist from keeping consumer prices artificially low.

Speaking at the last-ever MLC board meeting on 26 March, Barr said that if supermarkets continue to keep prices low as a promotional tool, they will be caught out when the meat supply chain can no longer deliver the volumes required.

"It's good to see upwards movement in farmgate livestock prices. This is much needed, although there is still a way to go to reflect true cost of production in each sector," he said.

"However, the red meat processing industry has been only sporadically successful in passing the farmgate price rises on to their own multiple retail customers.

"Destructive price competition and deep-cut meat promotions are not sustainable. The days of selling protein too cheaply are over."

Barr added that the current shortfall of meat supplies - caused by the contraction of the European livestock farming sector as a result of CAP reform and poor profitability - will only be exacerbated as the world population expands.

"The industry is potentially reaching a point at which two things will start to happen: it will be unable to meet the peaks of demand caused by retail promotions - particularly on manufacturing beef used for mince; and we will see processing businesses go to the wall," he said.

"Ultimately consumers will have to pay more for meat and increased market returns will need to be shared equitably through the supply chain to ensure processors and producers can survive and consumers can continue to buy meat."

The MLC will be dissolved today, after 41 years of operation. A new statutory levy board, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), will take over tomorrow.

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