Farming unions have urged retailers and processors to reconsider their responsibility towards British beef and lamb suppliers in the newly constrained marketplace as a result of Covid-19.
In an open letter, NFU livestock chairman Richard Findlay and vice-chairman Wyn Evans reiterated British beef and lamb is in plentiful supply but warned ‘ongoing high demand for products such as mince would soon become unsustainable’.
They said: “Beef and sheep farmers are facing massive and unwarranted disruption to their livelihoods as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
“But while UK consumers continue to demand high quality beef and lamb, which UK farmers can supply, we see unsustainable returns for our livestock that are undermining the moral partnership needed between farmers, processors and retailers.
“It is clearly a national priority to ensure shoppers can feed their families and keep the nation going at this time of need.
“We understand very well buying patterns in retail have caused significant problems with products like steaks and joints being outsold and out of balance by mince.
“Put simply, we cannot sustain a stable supply of one half of each animal.
“We think the whole chain has a renewed moral responsibility to make sure we market and value our product responsibly to avoid disruption to the consumer and, of course, to the farmers’ ability to maintain supply.
“We are urging all retailers to take stock in this period of uncertainty and reconsider their responsibility to their suppliers in this newly constrained marketplace.
“For beef and lamb, that means buying in balance and ensuring farmers receive a sustainable return.
“We are encouraged to see some retail lines promoting those prime cuts such as steaks and roasting joints as Easter and the warmer weather approaches.
“All the farmers we represent want to help you help the nation through this crisis, we do however need all retailers to play their part with us.”
The NFU will contact all retailers separately to understand individual plans to deal with the disruption in supply.