The ban on the movement of livestock due to the foot and mouth outbreak is set to cost the industry £10m per week in lost trade, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.
Red meat exports, which account for about 18% of the UK’s £2.8bn livestock market, were valued at £504m last year.
With the EU accounting for 90% of the British red meat and livestock export industry, the MLC said it hoped the movement ban would be lifted soon to avoid the industry being hit too hard.
“The longer the movement ban is in place the more pressure will be on retailers and others to source products from abroad to plug the gap,” said Guy Attenborough, MLC spokesman.
Costs of the ban
“We are likely to see some increase in imports but we would hope it’s very short-term and that no long-term contracts are signed.”
Mr Attenborough said there was no issue in getting meat to supermarkets as there was a supply of up to two weeks of meat in the supply chain.
‘Additional British produce available’
“Looking back at the 2001 outbreak, the licence to slaughter started very quickly and we would anticipate the licence to slaughter getting under way by the end of the week,” he said.
“The MLC has been talking to retailers about the supply situation and about the fact that there will be additional British produce available within the export ban being in place.
“We hope this will go some way to alleviating the impact of the loss of exports.”
Meanwhile, industry estimates have suggested large abattoirs could lose about £60,000 per week while the movement ban is in place.
Once supplies of maturated beef have been used, that figure could rocket to £200,000.
A spokesman for Anglo Beef Processors, which usually processes about 6000 cattle each week, said the processor was operating as normal at the moment.
“But it’s difficult to anticipate what the situation will be next week,” he said.
“We are going to lose money. The plant isn’t operating normally so we are concerned for our situation.
“There are going to be losers in the processing sector as well as farming.”