2 May 1997

Beef price hits 16-year low

NFU president Sir David Naish has called for increased aid for cattle farmers as beef prices slumped to the lowest level for 16 years.

With cattle prices plunging as low as 83p/kg at markets, Sir David urged the next government to increase the suckler cow premium by £20/beast, and to provide compensation for losses caused by the green £ revaluations.

The drop in finished cattle prices is being compounded by the flood of beef from the EU being dumped on the UK market. Sir David said it was time for the UK government to consider national labelling of British beef, to allow consumers to choose what he claimed was the safest beef in the world.

European producers were still getting at least 10p/kg more for live cattle because they were being paid for offals. That was not an option in the UK because of the stringent BSE-controls.

Setting out the NFUs priorities for the next government, Sir David promised that at his first meeting with the farm minister he would demand the introduction of common EUBSE controls.

Denying that he was depressed by the doubts raised by EU Commissioners Franz Fischler and Emma Bonino about the certified herd scheme, Sir David said he would continue to press hard to get the beef ban lifted.

The next UK farm minister would have a key role to play in restoring European consumer confidence. "The minister has to work in Europe,"Sir David said.

rather than on Europe, and he will have to win friends," Sir David said.

NFU deputy president Ben Gill was concerned about the possible repercussions from scientific reports suggesting the BSE prion could survive far higher temperatures than was previously believed. But Mr Gill stressed it was vital that politicians listened and responded to scientists in all issues concerning BSE.

Sir David said the NFU would ask the next farm minister to reverse the cut in support to renderers because it was effectively threatening to put another tax on livestock producers.

Other issues on which the union wants swift action include a decision on this years set-aside rate, the publication of the Krebs report into TB and badgers, and greater progress on farm assurance.