Defra plans UK beef crisis summit

Defra has announced plans for a beef crisis summit to explore the reasons behind the farmgate price crash.

Farmers, meat processors and supermarkets will be invited to the discuss how to build a long-term, sustainable beef sector.

A government-led meeting was one of the demands from UK farm union leaders when they met last week to debate the beef sector’s problems.

No date has been set but the NFU has said it should be held in June or July at the latest to avoid the situation worsening further.

See also: Finished cattle slump puts pressure on store prices

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said he was pleased politicians were taking an interest in the issues affecting beef.

“We are lobbying for [the meeting] to be as soon as possible,” he said.

We want to make people aware of the fact the short-term impact of the drive to the bottom on price to increase the processors’ and retailers’ margins is not sustainable at a farmgate level.

“We will drive on the promises made after Horsegate. It was very disappointing supermarkets were talking about supporting British farmers and just because they can get better margins, they have moved away from them.”

Slipping consumer demand and a short-term surge of Irish imports have combined to bring about a farmgate beef price of more than 65p/kg in 12 months.

The GB all-steers price dipped to 332.9p/kg last week, with the south of England average down to 311.4p/kg.

National Beef Association chief executive Chris Mallon said the meeting needed to focus on taking volatility out of the system.

“The price dropping 70p in a year cannot be helping anyone,” he said.

“I would rather we work together to stabilise the demand for beef and look at if the consumer wants a certain product then that is what we produce.

“Also, instead of having cloak-and-dagger about prices on a Friday, the processors should say what cattle they want and be open about what the price is.”