Farmers questioned industry representatives on why prime cattle prices were dropping ‘like a stone’ while retail prices stood still. By Katrina Macarthur
Hundreds of livestock producers gathered in the north east on Monday evening to address the significant decline in beef prices.
The red meat crisis meeting, organised by NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) north east branch, was held at Aberdeen and Northern Marts’ Thainstone Centre, Inverurie, and included a panel of industry representatives who listened to the concerns and opinions of those in an audience of more than 500 people.
Several farmers hit out on the fact that beef producers were receiving more than £200 per head less for their cattle compared to last year and questioned why beef on the shelf is still trading at similar values to 12 months ago.
Jim Stewart from Rothienorman, in Aberdeenshire, said: “Prime cattle prices are dropping like a stone and its not going down in the retailers. Who the hell is making money from all this beef? Somebody is making money. Who?
“Finishers are tied up with putting prime cattle direct to slaughterhouses and because there is so few of them, markets are limited. I hate to say it but it’s like they (the processors) are running a cartel and on a Friday night they ring round everybody and decide what the price will be next week.”
Ian Anderson, of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) responded to Mr Stuart’s concern and argued that the processors follow the market system.
He said: “We’ve heard of this cartel for years and there is no evidence ever been produced that there is such an arrangement going on - certainly not in Scotland. At the end of the day, whatever price we get from the retailer reflects what we are prepared to pay for the beef we get from the farmer. It’s the market through and through.”
Also weighing in on this matter, NFUS north east vice chairman Andrew Connon, added: “For months, we have had nothing but negativity and beef prices are being talked down week on week. The processors tell us that if we get the demand, the price will come up but its never gone down in the first place.
“Some butchers are telling me they are paying more for their beef going into their shops than they were six months ago and in my opinion that’s an absolute scandal – someone is making money and it’s not the producers.”