Retailers criticised for tumbling beef returns

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An unacceptable gap between the farm gate and retail price for beef has emerged, the National Farmers’ Union says.

Farm gate prices have dropped while the price paid by consumers for beef has remained stable, new Eblex figures to March show. The producer share of final retail price stands at 48 per cent compared to 58 per cent received in March 2013.

Andy Foot, the NFU’s beef group chairman, said it was infuriating for farmers to see further reductions on the beef price when retailer margins to March had shown an increase.

“Last year we heard from retailers that they wanted to source more British beef. 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?”

But Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers are investing in their own chains, paying the best prices to their beef farmers who supply them and are not the cause of this short-term fall.”

The long-term trend was positive, he said.

“Only two weeks ago the farming industry produced a report that showed farmers’ share of the shop price of meat and milk has steadily increased over the last 15 years, as retailers cut the shelf price to help consumers whilst ensuring producers still receive a good price.”

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