Urgent action was needed to secure the future of British beef production, with the industry a victim of Brexit planning and cheap imports.
With finished cattle prices losing value week after week, farming groups have called for urgent and united action to support the industry.
But National Beef Association (NBA) chief executive Chris Mallon said the lack of substantial beef promotions and the steady retail price suggested demand was ‘far better than we are being told’.
He highlighted a lack of competition between processors was preventing differences in prices, with the producer share of the retail price now below 48 per cent.
Mr Mallon said retailers had lessened their commitment to UK farmers over the past five years, with almost £4 million less paid to farmers last week compared to 2018.
He also warned with the dairy beef sector ‘faring little better’ dairy farmers would be under pressure to move back to euthanising bull calves instead of finishing them.
He questioned how a nation supplying only 70 per cent of consumption could be oversupplied by domestic consumption and highlighted Irish prices were actually higher in some areas, but were still being used to fulfil UK orders.
“The problem obviously lies with an oversupply of imported products swamping the UK market,” he said, with imports acting as a loss leader to control the UK price.
NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts warned without urgent action from processors, retailers, levy bodies and Government the situation could rapidly worsen.
He added farmers wanted to see in-store promotions, clear labelling from retailers and a fair share of the retail value from processors.
Defra also had questions to answer, after the EU approved an Irish Government beef crisis support package, with farmers looking at the ‘unfair advantage’ their competitors were receiving.
Mr Roberts urged AHDB to prioritise resources to support promotional efforts at home and abroad.
NFU Cymru livestock board chairman Wyn Evans agreed, calling on retailers and food service to support the industry.
He said: “Beef farmers are finding it difficult to get their stock booked in to the abattoir and unsurprisingly confidence in the Welsh beef sector has taken a significant knock.”
He added it was important the industry could capitalise on the opportunity to boost sales for summer barbecues.
NFU Scotland livestock chairman Jimmy Ireland questioned how Scotch beef could be ‘flying off the shelves’ while prices fell through the floor.
He added the industry needed to pull together now and realise if it wanted top quality grass-based Scottish production to continue farmers needed to receive a premium.
Prime cattle price year on year comparison
Deadweight steer price
June 23, 2018 – 371p/kg
June 22, 2019 – 334.8p/kg
Deadweight heifer price
June 23, 2018 – 366.1p/kg
June 22, 2019 – 324.8p/kg
Deadweight young bull price
June 23, 2018 – 363.5p/kg
June 22, 2019 – 325.4p/kg