THE National Beef Association (NBA) has urged beef farmers to lobby and write to their MPs about the current state of the beef sector.

And it has called for an urgent meeting and investigation by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRA) into the poor prices being paid to beef producers.

Chris Mallon, NBA chief executive, said every penny reduction removes more than £100,000 from UK beef farmers and the disappearance of more suckler cattle from farms.

The NBA says the lack of competition in the UK beef sector is now totally evident, with bid prices from the major processors staying on a par, and movements always the same way.

Mr Mallon said talk of further price reductions this week demonstrated the contempt processors were showing for beef producers. "Another 5p/kg drop takes away another £500,000 from struggling family businesses," he said.

"Reasons have included poor trade for offal, poor trade for hides, and struggling consumer demand. All would have some credence if these same companies were not importing product to fill UK supermarket shelves."

The NBA says its members are facing a complete imbalance in power, with the farmer on the losing side. Producers have no access to an ombudsman to query trading practices, and as such are powerless.

Mr Mallon said: "Our concerns are wide-ranging, and include origin of imports and subsequent labelling, Brexit stockpiling and the subsequent unloading on to the UK market, and the absence of contracts that leave profit, but put all the risk on the producer.

"But we are also seeing market manipulation, for example one consignor being told there is a three week waiting list, while another is approached for additional cattle for immediate consignment. Retailers are also continuing to demand commercially sensitive information from farmer suppliers.

"We feel our concerns are worthy of time and investigation at committee level with EFRA, and as such we have requested a meeting to air our concerns.

"The future of the industry is being damaged, and the viability of the sector is at risk as numbers drop which will ultimately hit food security for British consumers."