The National Beef Association has joined the dairy industry in criticising the Office of Fair Trading.

The organisation has claimed that the OFT takes too narrow a view of the market for primary agricultural products.

“The OFT insists that the Competition Act of 1998 and the Enterprise Act of 2002 must remain its focus so it can prevent supply chain abuse of competitive principles,” said NBA chairman Duff Burrell.

“However, it is ignoring the inevitable narrowing of consumer choice if UK beef farmers continue to sell slaughter cattle for 25-35% less than the cost of production because there has been no adjustment to the radical changes forced on the supply chain through CAP reform,” added Mr Burrell.

The NBA said it wanted the OFT to acknowledge the changes forced on UK production through subsidy decoupling and accept that consumers needed protection from market forces.

It pointed out that if the market was left unchecked, it would soon deprive shoppers of product choice and impose a damagingly restrictive range in retail selection.

“We firmly believe that the OFT’s current position, which stamps hard on any post-decoupling effort to sustain domestic production through revised attitudes to ex-farm prices, is against consumers’ long-term interests and will undermine national food security unless it is modified,” said Mr Burrell.