THE leaders of the four UK farming unions have called for urgent and collaborative action across the whole supply chain to support farmers affected by the continuing beef price crisis.

The four presidents - John Davies, NFU Cymru; Minette Batters, NFU; Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland; and Ivor Ferguson, Ulster Farmers’ Union – met at the Royal Welsh Show and agreed a set of measures that need to be urgently implemented to address the situation.

In a joint statement they 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."

Their five point action plan calls for:

n an intense and co-ordinated period of product promotion by retailers and processors

n the UK levy bodies to continue to raise awareness about the values behind UK beef production, both at home and abroad, and support the export, retail and food service sectors and deliver on new opportunities, such as the recently opened Chinese market

n for all retailers to ensure their marketing on origin and sourcing is clear at the point of sale and for food service providers to give clear country of origin labelling on all beef products

n for the UK government to urgently review their public procurement with an emphasis on UK origin

n for UK governments to assess the impact on the UK beef market of the 100 million euro cash boost provided to Irish beef farmers, while considering mitigating measures to protect UK beef production.

The presidents 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.

"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 while 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.”