South west beef finishers have been told by the National Beef Association that they need to seek buyers from the North of England.

The base price for R4L steers in the south-west is as low as 196p/kg/dw compared with 217p/kg/dw in the North of England.

The NBA says the problem in the south west is that two big slaughter companies have a grip on prices and there is heavy reliance on just one big retail buyer.

“Despite the very welcome efforts of local, medium range, abattoirs to widen the buying circle and capture more, higher priced, catering markets for Westcountry beef the average price for cattle in the south west remains heavily discounted compared with those recorded elsewhere,” said NBA south west chairman Mark Thomas.

“Unfortunately slaughter capacity in the region is decreasing at the same time as the proportion of beef taken up by Tesco through St Merryn and Southern Counties Fresh Food expands.

“The time has come for a more organized approach to tackle this longstanding problem. Specialist finishers need to discover new buyers further North where the same cattle can be £50-£60 a head dearer,” said Mr Thomas.

“There is no reason why the largest finishers cannot organise themselves into a loose trading group that regularly delivers full truckloads of animals to hungry Northern buyers or use agents in the North of England to help them out instead.”