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Severe backlash from farming union as Polish beef floods onto Sainsbury’s and Asda shelves

Ulsters Farmers Union (UFU) has voiced its anger over reports ABP Food Group has supplied 400 tonnes of Polish beef to Sainsbury’s and Asda, branding the retailers’ decision as an ’underhand, selfish tactic’. 

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Backlash from farming union as Polish beef flooded onto Sainsbury’s and Asda supermarket shelves

The spreading coronavirus has seen difficult market conditions and reduced prices for producers in recent weeks but latest reports of surplus Polish beef on leading supermarket shelves has sparked rage from UFU’s presidential team.


The union has accused the major beef processor and two retailers of ‘threatening the unity and sustainability of the food supply chain that is keeping supermarket shelves filled through the virus crisis’.

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A UFU spokesperson said: “There is no reason for doing this other than to make a quick profit.


"Farmers across the UK and Ireland are working hard to keep supplies flowing under the most difficult of circumstances.


"They are succeeding and there is plenty of beef available to processors and retailers.


"What they are doing is simply kicking farmers at these most difficult of times as part of a tactic to drive down prices.


"That is unfair and underhand. Those doing it deserve to be named and shamed."




"In a recent meeting with processors we specifically asked was non-UK beef being imported and it was categorically denied.


"Only for it to become apparent that this was already happening on the same day as it was being denied. What trust and respect we had for the processors and retailers has seriously eroded.


"I would urge all involved in this trade to think again and put wider interests first – if only for the sake of their own reputations with farmers and the general public. We cannot have processors and retailers undermining us at a time when we as farmers need to feed our nation.”

The UFU said parts of the Polish industry were under investigation by the European Commission for poor hygiene practices just a few months ago.

NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle said: “Our meat supply chains have not been immune to the disruption seen in retail and food supply chains in recent weeks and many will be aware that there has been some Polish beef and poultry meat stocked by some UK retailers. 


“We have challenged this apparent change in sourcing policy. We are aware of the overwhelming customer demand for beef mince and poultry meat that outstripped the processors’ capacity to meet demand – in particular for mince. The retailers involved have indicated that this is a one off, and haven’t moved away from their standard sourcing policies nor their commitment to British.


“British farmers are prepared and enthusiastic to meet any increased retail demand and are committed to meet the needs of consumers. We’re urging retailers and processors to build resilience now to manage any future disruptive buying behaviour and help improve availability of product through this difficult time.”





A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We have a long history of supporting British suppliers and we remain committed to sourcing British as much as we possibly can.


"We have experienced exceptionally high demand for certain cuts of meat in the last few weeks so we have temporarily introduced additional lines for our customers to choose from.


"We will go back to offering our usual range as soon as possible, while balancing our commitment to meeting demand and helping to feed the nation.”


An Asda spokesperson: ’’As you know last week our stores saw unprecedented demand across all of our products including beef and to help cope with the demand we temporarily increased the number of products available to our customers alongside our British farmed beef.


"All of our products are clearly labelled so that our customers can make the best choices for themselves and their families.’’

ABP response


An ABP spokesperson said: "At the end of March, many of our retail customers experienced panic buying, as people prepared to remain at home in response to Covid-19.


"This resulted in an unprecedented increase in demand over a very short period of time and processing capacity was not able to meet the surge in demand.


"To ensure that consumers would continue to be served during this national emergency, ABP temporarily supplemented its existing supply chain with European beef, including Poland. This product is produced to the same exacting traceability and quality standards as all ABP products.


"This was a temporary measure related to one product which was clearly labelled and was aimed to meet the surge in demand at that time. Supply arrangements are now reverting to normal."

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