Crunch time for beef industry

Retailers must give consumers a chance to vote with their purses, wallets and credit cards on the future of the UK beef industry, according to the National Beef Association.

Retailers must give consumers a chance to vote with their purses, wallets and credit cards on the future of the UK beef industry, according to the National Beef Association.

The campaign follows the National Farmers' Union's drive to highlight the plight of the pig and poultry industry.

The NBA has warned that if they do not immediately raise shop prices, and allow consumers to show whether they are willing to pay more for high provenance, high welfare, and high quality beef from British cattle, then in-store supplies will begin to dry up and shoppers will have to rely on beef imports instead.

"Rampant cereal prices and falling Single Farm Payments are pushing the UK beef industry into the Last Chance Saloon. If more new income is not generated through realistic retail prices for beef, and then reflected in a massive lift in the value of slaughter cattle, there will be a shut down in beef farming across the UK," said NBA director, Kim Haywood.


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"Many farmers have stuck with beef, despite persistent losses since subsidies were decoupled in 2005, in the vain hope that slaughter prices would rise significantly.

"But spot prices of £175 a tonne for feed barley and £190 a tonne for feed wheat have undermined the last of finishers' resolve and suckled calf breeders also know that their own future is now in question."

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Tesco has responded to higher cereal costs by lifting its price for a bread loaf by 8p. However it has still to react to the additional 21p-24p per deadweight kg cost faced by suckled calf finishers as a result of the hike in grain prices.

And if a retail lifeline is not thrown out this autumn the NBA predicts the following developments as the beef sector initiates its own wind down.

"Finishers who grow their own grain will take a last look at the contrast between selling their grain on the spot market for anything between £175-£190 a tonne, and feeding cattle likely to be sold at just 185p-220p per dwkg, and decide that they cannot turn their back on a chance to more than double their income from grain," said Ms Haywood.

"This will be followed by a rush to clear existing stocks of cattle before super-expensive grain needs to be fed in winter."

"It is crunch time for the beef sector. Everything that it was afraid of when direct subsidies disappeared in 2005 is now striking home."

Defra's chief vet, Debby Reynolds, said that the 20-day standstill for livestock following movement and additional controls on livestock markets and shows will be lifted from noon today.

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