SUPERMARKET BUYERS are being warned that they cannot rely on sufficient home-killed beef being available from 2008 unless they pay more for the meat they buy.

The National Beef Association said some retailers have still to realise that unless farmers can cover their production costs there will be a dramatic drop in output in three year‘s time.

“Short term supplies are already safe because the calves are in the pipeline,” said NBA chief executive Robert Forster.

“But an increasing number of breeders and feeders are telling us that after decoupling is adopted in January they will only continue with their current production commitment if they get a strong and positive price indicator from beef buyers.”

Mr Forster said some slaughterers had accepted this and were trying to get the message through to the multiples.

“But there are others who appear to think that farmers will be happy to use their single farm payment to make up the difference between market income and production costs.

“They appear to think prime cattle prices can continue at current inadequate levels indefinitely.”

According to the NBA, this is a dangerous assumption because SFP will fall well short of current coupled subsidy support after modulation and will differ according to region.

“We hear some slaughterers insisting that it is the market that will decide prices,” said Mr Forster.

“We take this to mean they are determined to keep cattle values as low as possible for as long as they can.

“But would prefer them to wake up, take a less short sighted view, and realise that unless they pay enough in 2005 to secure supplies in 2008 the beef they say they want will simply not come forward in anything like the volume they would like to see.”