17 March 2001
Beef price call over foot-and-mouth

by FWi staff

THE National Beef Association has called for a national committee to fix weekly prime cattle price following concern that abattoirs are forcing down values.

The suspension of livestock markets because of foot-and-mouth means there is no transparent mechanism to set the value of slaughter cattle, the NBA claims.

“The market is struggling to identify a bench price that is an accurate reflection of the balance between supply and demand,” said vice-chairman, Keith Redpath.

Mr Redpath described Meat and Livestock Commission pricing information as hopelessly inadequate because it was a week late and too general.

“Finishers should ignore the 165p average posted by the MLC and concentrate instead on the price paid for standard R4L carcases cut to the new EU dressing specification as the real point of comparison,” he said.

Many abattoirs in Scotland and Northern England are paying around 176p-180p for this standard item while the majority of plants elsewhere are paying 155p-160p and some substantially less, he claimed.

The NBA claims there is a wide gap between good prices paid in the north of England and Scotland and poorer returns in other areas of England and Wales.

It claims there are big differences between the money offered by medium sized abattoirs looking for home-killed cattle to supply independent butchers and larger abattoirs which are still dealing with imported beef for the major retailers.

The NBA believes the variations underline the urgent need to re-introduce much needed market transparency and re-establish less variable values.

As the foot-and-mouth crisis deepens, efforts must be made to prevent primestock purchasers taking an unnecessarily aggressive, said Mr Redpath.

“We think the government should encourage the re-instatement of as much price transparency as possibly under current, very difficult, circumstances and so we would welcome the establishment of a national price-fixing committee.”

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage