Beef industry heading towards ‘irretrievable decline’

The beef industry is in danger of “sleepwalking towards irretrievable decline” unless it tackles the issues affecting the sector, the English Beef and Lamb Executive has said.

A report into the future of the English beef industry says beef production had slumped by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2007 as the country’s breeding herd fell by 27%.

And while prices and consumer demand had strengthened by 12% in the same period, many producers are still losing money.

The report, In the Balance? The future of the English beef industry, says beef producers’ margins are lower in real terms than they were nearly two decades ago.

Producers, processors and the food industry need to devise long-term strategies if the industry is going to survive, it adds.

John Cross, EBLEX chairman, said short-term thinking by the industry plus a lack of awareness by policy-makers and the public meant the beef sector was being eroded.

“We are sleepwalking towards the irretrievable decline of a critical part of our farming industry,” he said.

“However, this is not inevitable. The scope for technical and business improvement is very substantial and it is vital that producers take up and apply existing technical knowledge.”

Mr Cross said EBLEX was working with the industry to improve profitability and competitiveness, but others needed to play a role.

“All those with an interest in the English beef industry are urged to take a much more strategic view of the industry’s current situation and its outlook,” he added.