Farmers have 'lost £170m' due to dire beef prices

Numerous farm groups gave evidence to the EFRA Committee which looked at the causes of the current low beef prices
Numerous farm groups gave evidence to the EFRA Committee which looked at the causes of the current low beef prices

The NFU used a parliamentary committee looking at the causes of low beef prices to highlight how farmers have so far lost £170m at the farm gate.

The EFRA Committee looked at the reasons behind the current unsustainable beef prices on Wednesday (16 October).

It mainly looked at the impact this is having on producers and what action is needed to improve the situation.

Giving evidence were NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts, Chris Mallon, Director of the National Beef Association, Tom Kirwan, Managing Director of ABP Beef and Nick Allen, Chief Executive of the British Meat Processors Association.

The UK beef sector is currently at a point where the farm gate price for prime cattle has fallen drastically below the cost of production.

The NFU, giving evidence, said this is causing huge financial pressure for producers across the UK.

Mr Roberts said: “Improving transparency and fairness throughout the supply chain is going to be crucial if we are to get out of this rut.”

He called for an urgent modernisation of the grading system to reflect what today’s consumer wants and to ensure farmers are incentivised and rewarded accordingly.

“We also need to deliver effective campaigns to promote quality British beef. Over the summer I urged processors to consider matching industry investment pound for pound.

“I now put this to government to help the industry write its own narrative and work towards driving demand at home and increasing our markets abroad,” he added.

As prices continue to plummet, the beef sector also fears the possibility of a no-deal Brexit and its impact it would have on trade with the EU27.

It would mean farmers are faced with a tariff of 84 percent on beef products going into the EU, their biggest trading partner.

The UK is due to leave the bloc in just two weeks time, on 31 October.

Mr Roberts told EFRA: “We need urgent action from government and the supply chain to improve transparency, update the pricing structure and better promote our products if we are to reverse the dire situation many farmers find themselves in through no fault of their own.”

It follows a meeting between Defra farming minister George Eustice and the NFU last month on the subject of beef prices.

He committed to consider improvements to the grading system and moving the current voluntary code to a statutory footing.