Farmers and processors agree code of practice for cattle purchases

Cattle grazing in Broadland. Picture: James Bass

Cattle grazing in Broadland. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

A voluntary code of practice for the purchase of cattle is set to be introduced to enhance transparency and trust in relations between processors and livestock producers.

The British Meat Processors' Association (BMPA) and the National Farmers' Union (NFU) have agreed the scope of the code, which does not cover prices but has two main features – it commits individual processors to being open about their company's terms and conditions of trading, and signatories undertake to give 12 weeks' notice of changes to these terms and conditions.

Cattle processors across the UK – whether or not they are members of the BMPA – are now being encouraged to sign up to the code.

Other sections of the industry including retailers, food service companies and renderers have also been urged by the BMPA and NFU to operate according to the principles of the code to help to minimise volatility and uncertainty in the supply chain.

BMPA president Peter Mitchell said: 'Responsible and forward-thinking processors understand the need to be open about their terms and conditions of trading with their producer suppliers and to give reasonable notice of changes to them.

'Signing up to the code is a visible sign of this recognition, and a commitment to constructive relations with beef producers in order to improve the efficiency of the beef supply chain and so together we can better meet the needs of the marketplace.'

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: 'This is a welcome step in the right direction as we continue to seek more openness and transparency in the supply chain.

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'What is critical to our members is the stability that this code should bring, which will allow producers to plan ahead and market their cattle without sudden or unexpected changes to conditions of sale. We hope this will help beef producers to manage the volatility we have seen in recent years and provide a clearer understanding of the terms and conditions that are on offer.'

The BMPA gave an undertaking to develop a processor code of practice at last year's Beef Summit, hosted by Defra food and farming minister George Eustice, who said: 'I commend the positive and constructive discussions between the BMPA and the NFU that have led to the introduction of this voluntary code of practice which aims to increase transparency and trust between processors and livestock producers in the beef supply chain.

'The code should help to improve people's confidence in the system. It is a good step forward and I encourage processors to commit to it and retailers and renderers to get behind it and give it their support.'