Farmers’ representative groups from across the country will today (14 October) convene at DEFRA headquarters to discuss the immediate problems facing the beef industry in England.
Including representatives from all the major farmer groups as well as the big retailers, processors and the catering trade, the meeting will seek to identify the biggest issues facing the industry before considering viable solutions.
In the interests of neutrality, the meeting will be chaired by junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach. He will begin proceedings by announcing that the government is to allocate £1.6m in funding to help farmers consider ways in which to maximise their profit from beef.
Although the money is for a UK-wide programme, more than £1m is destined for England. The initiative, “Beef Better Returns”, will be run by EBLEX over a three-year period.
The minister will also announce a commitment to spending £5.5m on a Beef Market Restoration Programme once the export ban is lifted. Again, EBLEX will have responsibility for the funds and it will use its Lamby and Beefy characters to promote dishes containing mince and other fore-quarter meat. A portion of the funds will also be used for export promotion by marketing British beef abroad.
National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said beef producers were looking for friends in the industry. He called on buyers that were willing to pay a respectable price, one that he described as sufficient to provide a management and investment income, to come forward and identify themselves.
“Beef farmers cannot keep their businesses together on distant promises,” Mr Forster said. Many producers would soon have little option but to quit the industry.