Wider beef prices gap is criticised

First published in Farming

The NFU has criticised the widening gap between the farm gate and retail price for beef.

Eblex figures show farm gate prices have dropped while the price paid by consumers for beef has remained stable.

The latest indication to March is that the producer share of final retail price fell to 48 per cent – well below the 58 per cent received in March last year, and the 51 per cent received in the second half of 2013.

Andy Foot, NFU beef group chairman, said it was infuriating for farmers to see further beef price reductions when retailer margins to March had increased.

Last year retailers said they wanted to source more British beef.

He said: “They were keen to work with us to ensure a secure future for our farmers, and I am bitterly disappointed to see how short their memories are.

“We work in an industry with a long production cycle and low margins and we simply cannot afford to be toyed with.

“It is a significant investment to buy store cattle, let alone suckler cows.

“So how is a farmer meant to do so with any degree of confidence of a return on his or her investment when you can see over 20p/kg slashed off the price overnight?”

Farmers would feel betrayed, particularly as the price drop coincided with Great British Beef Week.

Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, had hoped that after the horsemeat scandal, and Great British Beef Week, retailers would keep their promise to engage with the supply chain.

“Like Andy, I am deeply disappointed to see this drive to force prices down,” he said.

“With retailers making an increasing margin from beef, farmers need to see an end to this short-termism.

“This is completely incompatible with an industry that works in years rather than months.”

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