NFU president Peter Kendall has warned that Britain’s beef and lamb industry could collapse if unsustainably low prices continue.

Speaking at the Devon County Show, Mr Kendall called on abattoirs and retailers to secure their UK supply base by offering producers long-term, forward priced contracts.

The price of finished beef cattle has leveled off in the last 12 months and lamb prices have recently suffered a sharp downturn, further hampering livestock farm incomes which are already the lowest in the industry.

Mr Kendall’s comments were based on a report by the union called Warning – Industry and Countryside at Risk. It estimates that beef producers need at least an extra £1/kg to cover all costs and leave a small margin for re-investment.

Similarly, the price of finished lamb would need to increase by around 62p/kg to leave a lamb finisher with a meaningful profit.

Mr Kendall said: “English beef and lamb is the finest in the world. It is in demand from consumers as never before, and its production makes a vital contribution to the management of the countryside and to the local and national economy.

“In a world in which demand for meat is growing faster than the ability to supply it, the medium to long-term economic prospects for livestock farming look bright.

“It would be nothing short of a tragedy if the red meat sector cannot maintain the critical mass of breeding animals to maintain supply in the short-term to take advantages of the opportunities that undoubtedly lie ahead.”

In addition to Britain’s cheap food culture, Mr Kendall argued that today’s problems are caused by the abolition of headage payments, which prompted livestock producers to subsidise unprofitable production with their single farm payment.

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