UK farming unions outline urgent measures needed to address current beef price crisis
The presidents of the four UK farming unions have met at the 100th Royal Welsh Show at Llanelwedd, in Wales, to call for urgent and collaborative action across the whole supply chain to support farmers affected by the ongoing beef price crisis.
While the Royal Welsh Show is a showcase for world-class livestock and genetics from throughout the UK, the event arrives against the backdrop of severe price cuts affecting UK beef farmers. Such is the seriousness of the situation the four UK farming union presidents John Davies, NFU Cymru; Minette Batters, NFU; Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland; and Ivor Ferguson, Ulster Farmers’ Union have come together to agree a set of measures that need to be urgently implemented to address the situation.
Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show, the UK farming union presidents said: “The UK beef sector is at crisis point: we’ve seen downward pressure on farmgate 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.”
The four UK farming union Presidents have announced a collaborative five-point action plan which is needed to ease the current beef price crisis. Their asks are:
- 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 four UK farming union presidents continued: “We have, as a matter of urgency, called on the main UK retailers and foodservice 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% fresh British beef. This demonstrates there is strong consumer demand to buy British beef. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Iceland represent 59.6% of the grocery market (source- Kantar, 12 weeks ending 16/06/2019) which clearly shows that very significant potential exists, and more can be done.
“The foodservice 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.”