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'Beef farmers need protection from supermarkets' iron grip'

18 January 2011

The National Beef Association (NBA) says farmers need Single Farm Payment (SFP) to protect them from the iron grip supermarkets have on retail food prices

Direct, Pillar One, support must continue to be a fundamental element of the post-2013 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that will be negotiated over 2011, says the NBA.

The Association says it remains 'deeply alarmed at the yawning chasm between the real cost of rearing and finishing beef cattle and the inadequate return received when they are sold to food processors'.

“Market income falls 25-30% short of allowing beef farmers genuine profit for their commercial endeavour's and if there was no SFP the United Kingdom would have been stripped of its suckler beef cattle herd some time ago,” explained NBA chairman, Oisin Murnion.

“Tax payers and government ministers are among those who complain about the cost of maintaining current CAP structures and it is often inferred that farmers who regard the continuation of them as a financial lifeline are undeserving.

“However the naked, incontrovertible truth is that without a continuation of direct SFP support the UK’s beef production would take a death dive – unless, of course, the supermarkets dropped their policy of selling underpriced beef, that is subsidised by the tax payer, and retail it at prices that allow finishers to be paid at least 400p a deadweight kilo instead.”

The NBA says taxpayers have two choices - either underwrite beef production and its value to the environment, distributed through CAP payments – or pay more when they are shopping.

“Farmers would prefer the latter because it would allow them to cover their costs and secure a reasonable standard of living, but the supermarkets prevent this through their resolute refusal to retail beef at prices that come anywhere near the level they should be,” said Murnion.

“This means adequate SFP cover in the post-2013 period is essential for the continued delivery of home produced suckler beef into the national retail system.

“It must also be acknowledged that maintenance of the national beef cattle herd at current levels is of huge importance environmentally because without cattle there would be nation-wide scrub encroachment, loss of wildlife habitats and importantly key rural communities.

“This in itself is justification for the continuation of direct CAP payments but preservation of both habitats, landscape, and communities, could also be assured if the multiples sold the beef on their shelves for much more money than they are prepared to do at present,” Mr Murnion added.

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