The presidents of all four of the UK’s farming unions have met to call for urgent and collaborative action across the whole supply chain to support farmers impacted by the ongoing beef price crisis.
The situation is considered so serious that John Davies, of NFU Cymru, Minette Batters, NFU, Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland, and Ivor Ferguson, of Ulster Farmers’ Union, came together to agree a set of urgent measures.
A joint statement said: “The UK beef sector is at crisis point: we’ve seen downward pressure on farm gate prices throughout the year and this dire situation cannot, and must not, be allowed to continue.
“While we accept that this is a complex situation and there are a number of factors affecting this drop in price, beef farmers cannot continue to sustain this decrease any longer. Let’s be absolutely clear – the sustainability of UK beef production is at stake here.
“Together we are calling for action across the whole supply chain – farmers, levy bodies, processors, retailers and the food service sector – in order to bring the UK beef industry back from the brink.”
A five point action plan has been mooted:
- The formulation of an intense and co-ordinated period of product promotion and innovation by retailers and processors to help stimulate demand for safe, high quality, fully traceable Red Tractor beef
- The UK levy bodies must continue to raise awareness around the values behind UK beef production, both at home and abroad, and support the export, retail and food service sectors to deliver on new opportunities, such as the recently opened Chinese market
- All retailers must ensure their marketing on origin and sourcing is clear at the point of sale and food service providers to give clear country of origin labelling for all beef products
- Governments across the UK to urgently review their public procurement commitments with an emphasis on UK sourcing
- Governments across the UK must assess the impact on the UK beef market of the €100 million cash boost provided to Irish beef farmers, while considering mitigating measures to protect UK beef production
The statement further said: “We have, as a matter of urgency, called on the main UK retailers and food service providers to urge action to alleviate the issue. We have seen some excellent support from some UK retailers, most notably from the Co-op, Morrisons, Waitrose, M&S, Lidl and Aldi, in selling 100 per cent fresh British beef.
“This demonstrates there is strong consumer demand to buy British beef. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, and Iceland represent 59.6 per cent of the grocery market which clearly shows that very significant potential exists and more can be done.
“The food service sector also has a critical and increasingly important role to play and we are also calling on them to increase the country of origin labelling of beef products on menus and back this up by providing clear sourcing policies to consumers.
“This crisis must be dealt with swiftly and effectively so that we can focus on the long term viability of the beef sector. If we can overcome this present crisis then we as the Presidents passionately believe in the future of our industry.
“UK beef farmers are revered as some of the best producers in the world when it comes to the production of green, clean, high quality, fully traceable beef. We need the UK Government to ensure that we retain free and frictionless trade with the EU whilst opening up new export markets, ensuring any imports are subject to the same high quality standards that we are quite rightly proud of.
“We need greater transparency within the supply chain with a fair and equitable split of risk and reward alongside greater retail, food service sector and processor collaboration with the producer.
“The supply chain must unite and support producers of a high quality product that is undoubtedly a favourite with consumers across the UK and beyond.”
The presidents met to discuss the crisis at the Royal Welsh Show.