NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts has today (October 16) put British beef farmers’ case to the Efra Committee, giving evidence on the causes of the unsustainably low beef price, its impact on producers and what action is needed to improve the situation.

During the session, Mr Roberts reiterated the NFU’s calls for:

• Improved transparency throughout the supply chain, including food service, public procurement, by-products, and disposal costs

• An urgent update of the current carcass grading system

• The current voluntary code to become mandatory under the Agriculture Bill

• Investment in promotional activity to drive demand for British beef at home and abroad.

He said: “We are at a point where the farm gate price for prime cattle has fallen way below the cost of production. This is causing huge financial pressure for beef producers across the UK, who have so far lost £170 million at the farm gate.

“Improving transparency and fairness throughout the supply chain is going to be crucial if we are to get out of this rut, as well as an urgent modernisation of our grading system to reflect what today’s consumer wants and to ensure farmers are incentivised and rewarded accordingly.

“We also need to deliver effective campaigns to promote quality British beef. Over the summer I urged processors to consider matching industry investment pound for pound. I now put this to government to help the industry write its own narrative and work towards driving demand at home and increasing our markets abroad.

“If farmers don’t start to see fair returns soon many will start to leave the sector. The threat to the British beef industry is amplified by the very real possibility of a no-deal Brexit in 15 days’ time, which would mean farmers are faced with a huge tariff of 84 per cent on beef products going into the EU, their biggest trading partner.

“We now need urgent action from government and the whole supply chain to improve transparency, update the pricing structure and better promote our products if we are to reverse the dire situation many farmers find themselves in through no fault of their own.”

Also giving evidence were Chris Mallon, national director of the National Beef Association, Tom Kirwan, managing director of ABP Beef (UK) and Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association.