The NFU livestock board has called on Government to match-fund Red Tractor’s marketing spend and beef and lamb levies to boost demand for red meat.
Richard Findlay, the board’s chairman, told an NFU council meeting in Stoneleigh this week that reversing the decline in red meat consumption was key to resolving the beef price crisis, which has seen some farmers lose up to 50p per kilo on their produce.
At the meeting, delegates criticised union leaders for not doing enough to support the sector, telling them there was a perception among farmers that the NFU was ‘not there’.
Outlining the work the union had done in calling for a more transparent market, Mr Findlay warned there were ‘no easy answers’ and powerful processors had farmers ‘by the scruff of the neck’.
“I also want [Farming Minister] George Eustice and Government to consider match-funding processor and producer levies and the Red Tractor marketing spend,” he said.
“We need to boost domestic demand. It is decreasing and we need to address that.
“We need to get beef and lamb products which a consumer can cook in less than 30 minutes. That is our biggest challenge.
“There has been a lot more innovation in other proteins on the market place and we have been left behind with red meat.”
Mr Findlay also called on the Government to look at power imbalances in the lamb market as it prepares to hold a roundtable summit on the beef crisis.
“I am concerned there is a complete lack of competition in the [beef] processing sector,” he said.
“It is being dominated by too few, large, Irish-owned processors and this gives them the ability to mingle and blend British and Irish product, with very little ability for the consumer to distinguish between it, and that pulls down our domestic product price.
“We are not far off being in a similar position for lamb slaughtering, with the sale last year of one of the major slaughtering outfits [2 Sisters Red Meat Limited to Irish-based Kepak Group].
“There is a disproportionate power in the processing industry in too few hands.”