Livestock farmers visiting the Royal Show next week are being urged to press retailers on their commitment to buying British meat.

Thomas Binns, chairman of the NFU Livestock Board, who also farms 2000 ewes and 100 suckler cows in Lancashire, will be quizzing supermarkets on their buying policies and asking how farmers can improve their systems to secure markets for their produce.

He wants other farmers, particularly those in the beef sector, to do the same to help build on the firmer market base that has emerged over the past few months.

“A year ago we saw a very dire situation appear in the beef sector, when there was talk of tightening supplies and higher prices.

Retailers rushed to cover themselves by importing produce,” Mr Binns said.

British deadweight averages crashed to 175-180p/kg in the autumn.

While Mr Binns did not expect a repeat of that this season, he wanted farmers to ensure retailers resisted the temptation to import beef again.

Supermarkets could be persuaded to listen, he added, noting that Asda had made a firm commitment to buying British since the NFU exposed it for stocking non-assured South American beef recently.

He also said producers should make it clear that current prices, at about 212p/kg, were only sufficient to cover production costs and left no room for investment.

“We have seen markets firm; the additional dynamic of exports means prices are in much better shape than nine months ago,” Mr Binns said.

“But we need to build on this, and I think farmers should take the opportunity to ask retailers for a further commitment to British beef and lamb, and what we should be doing as producers to help make this happen.”

robert.harris@rbi.co.uk