Prosperity threatens beef supplies

UK - THE UK government must wake up to the fact that the upturn in the world economy has the potential to make beef much more expensive for consumers and, by implication, stretch supplies.
calendar icon 27 March 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
That was the stark message yesterday from Duff Burrell, chairman of the National Beef Association.

Self-sufficiency was not deemed to be an issue by the government just five years ago - the view was that imports would always be available. But there is, according to Burrell, a cross-industry opinion that if no steps are taken to maintain production close to current levels, in five years' time beef will be far from plentiful.

He said: "Two converging factors are already bringing unexpected urgency to the possibility that the UK may face beef supply pressure much sooner than previously anticipated.

"The first is that the growing global economy and general political stability, apart from the Middle East, is raising living standards in developing countries at an unprecedented rate. If this continues, then tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people will join the international meat- eating club. That means that there is likely to be enormous pressure on supplies.

"The second is the continuing steady decline in EU production, which has been an ongoing factor over the last ten years. There is quite clearly an ever widening gap between supply and consumption, and that could be very difficult to fill."

Some analysts have predicted that any EU shortfall will be countered by expanding production in South America. That now looks much less certain.

Only a year ago Argentina banned all exports for a nine-month period - a result of rising domestic opposition to high prices in Argentina, where beef consumption is about 64kg per person each year, compared with the 12kg average in the EU.

The considered opinion now is that by 2012, only Brazil will have an exportable surplus of beef.

Burrell says steps have to be taken now to address the situation. He said: "There can be no doubt that many UK beef producers who are already facing significant losses will be forced out of business over the next five years unless returns improve by at least 20 per cent.

Source: The Scotsman
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