UK farming unions respond to the growing beef crisis

editorial image

The presidents of the four UK farming unions have met at the 100th Royal Welsh Show to call for urgent and collaborative action across the whole supply chain to support farmers affected by the ongoing beef price crisis.

The last 12 months have seen producer prices in Northern Ireland fall by almost 50p/kg.

This works out at approximately £200 per finished animal. In addition, there are major hold-ups in getting cattle accepted by the meat processors for final slaughter. All of this is adding to the cash flow challenges facing beef farmers.

Such is the seriousness of the situation that the four UK farming union presidents: John Davies, NFU Cymru, Minette Batters, NFU England and Wales, Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland, and Ivor Ferguson, Ulster Farmers’ Union have come together to agree a set of measures that need to be urgently implemented to address the situation.

Subsequent to their meeting, the four union representatives issued an agreed statement, within which they say: “The UK beef sector is at crisis point: we’ve seen downward pressure on farmgate prices throughout the year and this dire situation cannot, and must not, be allowed to continue.

“While we accept that this is a complex situation and there are a number of factors affecting this drop in price, beef farmers cannot continue to sustain this decrease any longer. Let’s be absolutely clear - the sustainability of UK beef production is at stake here.

“Together we are calling for action across the whole supply chain – farmers, levy bodies, processors, retailers and the food service sector – in order to bring the UK beef industry back from the brink.”

They continue: “We have, as a matter of urgency, called on the main UK retailers and food service providers to urge action to alleviate the issue.

“We have seen some excellent support from some UK retailers, most notably from the Co-op, Morrisons, Waitrose, M&S, Lidl and Aldi, in selling 100% fresh British beef. This demonstrates there is strong consumer demand to buy British beef.

“The food service sector also has a critical and increasingly important role to play and we are also calling on them to increase the country of origin labelling of beef products on menus and back this up by providing clear sourcing policies to consumers.”

The union presidents have announced a collaborative five-point action plan which is needed to ease the current beef price crisis.

Their asks are:

The formulation of an intense and co-ordinated period of product promotion and innovation by retailers and processors to help stimulate demand for safe, high quality, fully traceable Red Tractor beef

The UK levy bodies must continue to raise awareness around the values behind UK beef production, both at home and abroad, and support the export, retail and food service sectors to deliver on new opportunities, such as the recently opened Chinese market

All retailers must ensure their marketing on origin and sourcing is clear at the point of sale and food service providers to give clear country of origin labelling for all beef products

Governments across the UK to urgently review their public procurement commitments with an emphasis on UK sourcing

Governments across the UK must assess the impact on the UK beef market of the €100 million cash boost provided to Irish beef farmers, while considering mitigating measures to protect UK beef production