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Suffolk: Farmers left struggling by collapse of beef price

PUBLISHED: 09:50 30 May 2014

Cattle at the Suffolk Show

Cattle at the Suffolk Show

Farmers and unions have said a dramatic fall in the price of beef is a “major concern” with some Suffolk producers claiming lessons have not been learnt from last year’s horsegate scandal.

Research by NFU East Anglia suggests that an EU-wide decrease in demand coupled with an increase in production has impacted on prices paid to farmers.

Stephen Rash, who runs a beef and arable farm at Wortham, near Diss, and represents Suffolk on the NFU national council, said many beef farmers in the region were finding it hard to be optimistic about the future as prices hit a two-year low.

“If you’ve got cattle to market you’re looking at £200 to £300 an animal less than you were six months ago,” he said. “It’s very difficult to make ends meet.”

Mr Rash said he believed an increase in Irish, Polish and non-EU beef had driven prices down.

He added: “It seems very strange that the price has collapsed in the way it has. After the horsegate scandal supermarkets promised to look after their suppliers and be fairer to farmers, but 12 months on it all seems forgotten and beef prices are slashed. Retailers are very good at protecting their margins.

“If the on-shelf price drops, it drops for the farmer but their (the retailer’s) percentage in the middle very often remains unchanged.

“When a large supermarket announces its profits have dropped 1% to a thick end of £1billion, everyone treats it like a crisis, but it’s still £1billion. When a farmer sees his gate price drop it’s all his profit gone.”

Mr Rash said he was concerned that retailers who relied on cheaper non-EU meat may not have learnt the lessons from the horsegate scandal.

He added: “I’m not saying the stuff that is coming in now is bad, but the potential is there for another mistake to be made.”

A spokesman from the NFU, said: “We need retailers and processors to actively work within their supply chains to reduce this damaging volatility and develop risk management options for beef farmers.”

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