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Resisting the Lure of Cheap Irish Meat

24 March 2009

UK - Feeders and finishers in all parts of the UK must do all they can to resist the further downward price pressures forced on them by supermarket interest in cheaper imports from the Republic of Ireland.

This is the message of the National Beef Association (NBA), who say are urging retailers to raise their on-shelf prices to levels that allow both processors, and producers, to meet their costs and so continue to keep their place in a domestic industry capable of delivering regular supplies of home produced beef on a long term basis.

“The beef sector is once more moving into a critical phase because retailers are continuing with heavy purchases of discounted Irish beef and the Anglo-Irish processors who supply them are using the opportunity this creates to systematically drive down cattle prices wherever, and whenever, they can,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.

“If regular supplies of domestic beef are to be secured in future both feeders and processors have to be able to earn enough to generate investment income and each of them falls well short of doing this at present.”

According to the NBA, beef farmers are once again engaged in a fight for survival and their initial target must be to raise farm-gate cattle prices from their current static level.

“Every finisher has a range of options. They are not obliged to sell to the same purchaser every time they have a batch of cattle ready and should not be striking deals without making any effort to get an improved price,” said Ms Haywood.

“The processors who are in the best position to pay more are those who are not massively committed to supplying supermarkets, and who can also develop new outlets with export customers now that new euro-sterling exchange rates have made UK beef extremely competitive.”

“Most of these are flexible, medium sized, companies who should be sought out as deadweight alternatives to the big players but they, and smaller independent retailers, can also be reached by moving more cattle through the auction system where there are more buyers at the ringside than there has been for decades.”

“The companies that should be relegated to last resort outlets are those who regularly pay the least for cattle and it is no accident that the biggest of these have plants in the ROI too and are currently moving cheaper, imported beef through Asda and Sainsbury’s.”

“No one should agree to sell cattle for a price below the cost of producing that animal and sellers must consider every outlet option to get the best price needed”.

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