PROCESSORS and retailers have been criticised for increasing their own margins while making farmers take a drop in price.

Stephen Wyrill, national chairman of the TFA, said figures from Eblex showed beef farmers had suffered at least a 13 per cent drop in the price they received, while retailers and processors’ margins had increased by 23 per cent.

Mr Wyrill, who farms near Catterick, accepted that in an open market prices do go up and down.

He said: “However, it is the primary producer that takes a kicking every time we see a downward pressure on price with the processors and retailers forcing farmers to take a lower price, while protecting their own margins.” Processors wanted a longterm strategy but, Mr Wyrill said, they appeared to be suffering from short-term memory loss.

“It was not very long ago that the industry was rocked by the horse gate scandal which proved to be caused by contaminated supplies of beef from abroad,” said Mr Wyrill.

“With the high standards of production at home we were able to guarantee to consumers that their meat would be uncontaminated.

“Once again, processors have been switching to cheaper supplies of imported beef not least from Eastern Europe.

“Lessons clearly have not been learnt.”

He said farmers need to consider what they can do to make themselves more resilient in such circumstances.

A reduction in the use of the live ring and a reliance upon direct supply contracts had left farmers vulnerable to processors.

“If processors had to rely more on sourcing the product through the live ring they would be less able to force producer prices down.

“We would be better able to secure fairer returns to all parties in the sector,” said Mr Wyrill.

“I am all for having an open discussion but we need to move beyond words into sustainable actions.

“The speed with which the processing sector appears to have forgotten the trauma of the horse gate scandal does not give us much cause for hope but we are prepared to try.”