Farmers slam scandalous abattoir prices

By James Garner

PAYMENTS from abattoirs and processors for limited amounts of livestock being moved this week have been branded scandalous by farmers and their leaders.

While the industry welcomed movement of stock direct to abattoirs, the new scheme to move animals free from foot-and-mouth regulations off farm has left farmers in a weak bargaining position.

Many feel their hands are tied, having little choice but to market animals before quality drops. Their position is further weakened by the lack of guide prices.

But, while imported meat prices shot through the roof this week domestic values have not, angering producers.

One industry source reckoned supermarkets had put pressure on abattoirs to cut prices, believing that farmers, desperate to shift stock would accept lower values than before the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

NBA chief executive Robert Forster blamed the abattoirs: “It is the big greedy ones up to their usual tricks.

“The market should be going up not down, there is long demand and short supply.”

He reckoned a fair price for beef cattle would be about 182p-185p/kg dw for standard-grade carcasses, and not the 160p/kg dw offered by some abattoirs earlier this week.

Lamb has suffered a similar fate with prices dropping to about 200-220p/kg dw, compared with 265p/kg before foot-and-mouth broke.

The National Sheep Associations chief executive John Thorley has written to farm minister, Nick Brown, about possible “profiteering”.

Pig prices, too, have not lived up to producers expectations. Ian Campbell of the National Pig Association, said he had heard of spot prices as low as 90p/kg dw, with better contract prices at 113p/kg.

“The end-user clearly can pay more. But retailers probably paid more for imported meat and may be trying to offset this.”

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