Beef farm leaders have issued a series of stark warnings that the sector is in serious trouble that could get even worse unless urgent action is taken to improve producer returns.
Triggered by an alert from the National Beef Association (NBA) which raised concerns for the “entire future of British beef production”, NFU Scotland (NFUS) and the NFU have voice their own fears over the dire state of the sector.
Aiming their warnings mainly at the UK Government, retailers and processors, the three bodies united in highlighting falling producer returns, stating British farmers were paid almost £4 million less in total for their cattle last week, compared to June 2018.
“With barbecues being dragged out of garden sheds and garages up and down the country, how can Scotch Beef be flying off the shelf while beef prices are falling through the floor?” said NFUS livestock chairman, Jimmy Ireland.
English NFU vice-president, Stuart Roberts, said beef farmers were experiencing markets at a three-year low, and without urgent action, the supply chain and government would see a bad situation rapidly worsen in the coming weeks.
He said: “At such a critical time for the British beef industry, farmers, processors, retailers, Defra, and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) need to work together to find solutions to this emerging crisis.”
NBA chief executive, Chris Mallon, said the issues were driven by a lack of competition between UK beef processors, an over-supply of imported products swamping the UK market, and by retailers who have dropped beef promotion over the last five years and “lessened their commitment to UK beef farmers”.
He added: “The producer’s share of the retail price is now below 48%, well under historic averages, and producers are understandably feeling underpaid for their produce.”
A Defra spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to monitor the market and keeping in close contact with industry to ensure that we are listening to the needs and concerns of our UK beef farmers.”