Beef crisis: Farming unions outline urgent measures

NFU President Minette Batters joined the UK's farming union presidents in urging retailers to back UK beef producers
NFU President Minette Batters joined the UK's farming union presidents in urging retailers to back UK beef producers

The presidents of the four UK farming unions have called for 'urgent and collaboration action' to support beef producers affected by the ongoing price crisis.

They have met at this week's Royal Welsh Show in a bid to highlight the seriousness of the situation.

The event, one of the farming industry's largest, arrives against the backdrop of severe price cuts affecting UK beef farmers.

Farming union presidents John Davies, NFU Cymru; Minette Batters, NFU; 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.

They call for the formulation of an 'intense and co-ordinated' period of product promotion by retailers and processors to help stimulate demand for British beef.

UK levy bodies must continue to raise awareness around the values behind British beef production, both at home and abroad, the president say.

Another measure looks at how 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 have also been urged by the four unions to review their public procurement commitments with an emphasis on UK sourcing.

Lastly, the unions call for government to 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.

The farming union presidents said 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,” they said.

The unions have called on the UK's leading retailers to alleviate the issue by backing British farming.

They added: “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. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Iceland represent 59.6% of the grocery market, which clearly shows that very significant potential exists and more can be done.

“The food service sector also has a critical role to play and we are also calling on them to increase the country of origin labelling of beef products on menus.”