16 October 1998

Retailers urged to pay promotion bill

By Shelley Wright

LEADERS of the National Beef and Sheep Associations have called on the government to force supermarkets to contribute to national meat promotion budgets.

In their responses to the governments five-yearly review of the Meat and Livestock Commission, both the NBA and NSA insisted it was wrong for the supermarkets to make profits on the back of promotions paid for, in the main, by farmers – especially when none of the profit was being passed back.

NSA chief executive John Thorley said: "It is utterly wrong for the supermarkets to be making profits on the back of long-term investments by the industry. It is only fair that they contribute."

And Robert Forster, chief executive of the NBA, said: "Farmers are actually paying to help the supermarkets make money, yet that is not being passed back to producers." The major retailers now accounted for about 70% of red meat sales, he added.

"There is enough in the chain to allow everyone to make a decent living. But, at the moment, that is not happening."

Mr Forster did not believe the MLC had any idea just how angry farmers were at the growing gap between farmgate and retail prices and the apparent lack of help from the commission.

Much more farm-based work was needed, he said. Too much money went on meat promotion and not enough on livestock production. Farmers wanted more technical advice, but were unhappy at having to pay Signet for that having already paid to establish the organisation.

To fund the improvements, either the commission cut other areas of work or extended its levy raising powers to include retailers, said Mr Forster.

"The retailers will argue black and blue that they shouldnt pay. But they are the only beneficiaries. Weve seen record sales of meat, with retail prices having hardly moved in years, yet the farmers who pay to promote meat have seen huge drops in their prices."