By James Garner
THE number of animals tied up in areas affected by foot-and-mouth disease is reaching such levels that processors are starting to replace British meat with imports again.
Peter Scott, director general of the British Meat Federation, said that it was becoming increasingly difficult to source beef supplies, because of the number of animals under foot-and-mouth movement restrictions.
“About 30% of beef supplies are now locked up in these areas. MAFF needs to make up its mind whether these animals are eligible for slaughter before they become over-finished, over 30 months old, or go into the welfare slaughter scheme.
“This is just a great waste.
“All that will happen is that imports will be sucked in. One way or another people will get fed,” he said.
Trade reports suggest that ABP was already importing beef to make up supplies.
“The big suppliers are struggling to get hold of stock.
“There will be more imports in the period ahead, because of the volume of beef taken out of the system,” said a company spokesman.
Tesco admitted that some retail price increases were due to higher costs of imports, such as bacon.
In the main, though, it was stocking British meat and suppliers were paying farmers at pre-foot-and-mouth levels.
Kevin Hawkins, communications director for Safeway, said that the Meat and Livestock Commission data revealing price increases in some cuts should be used carefully, because sales promotions cloud the picture.
He thought farmgate prices were getting back to what they were before foot-and-mouth, apart from lamb, which is about 220p/kg deadweight.
“This is not as high as the 260p/kg before the crisis began, but it is above the 190-200p/kg figure needed by most farmers to break even.”