Suckler cows©Tim Scrivener

Farmers have criticised a major meat processor for ramping up waste disposal charges at short notice.

St Merryn Foods has raised its charges to £19.20 a beef animal and £1.95 a lamb, starting this week.

The abattoir has blamed extra costs, particularly for specified risk material, and challenging trading conditions, which made it impossible to hold off a rise any longer.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said these bigger charges came on top of 11 weeks of falling beef prices.

See also: Major abattoirs explain not signing up to beef voluntary code

Since 17 January, the GB all-steers deadweight average has fallen from 365.5p/kg to 338.1p/kg.

Mr Sercombe said the short notice was particularly frustrating as St Merryn has signed up to the beef sector’s new voluntary code. It sets out 12 week’s notice for changes to terms and conditions.

“We assume that the renderers would be talking to processors highlighting the pressures on animal by-product markets,” he said.

“If so, these challenges should have been communicated to farmers, ideally within the 12-week window.

“This lack of transparency is totally against the letter and spirit of the processor code, and is the last thing we need when we are trying to build trust and great transparency within the beef supply chain, which is yet again facing pressure on farmgate prices.”

The beef industry’s voluntary code was launched in February by the NFU and the British Meat Processors Association.

It followed months of negotiation after farm minister George Eustice tasked both sides to come up with a deal following last July’s beef crisis summit.

All major meat processors have signed up, apart from Dunbia and Dawn Meats.

St Merryn Foods runs three sites: a packing factory at Victoria, Cornwall, a beef abattoir in Bodmin, Cornwall and a beef and lamb facility at Merthyr Tydfil.

2 Sisters, St Merryn’s owner, could not be reached for comment.