Scottish meat wholesalers have refused to respond to criticism that they and their English colleagues are “trading away the future of the beef industry for pennies”.
The National Beef Association (NBA) claimed yesterday every 1p per kg price cut for cattle is removing more than £110,000 from beef farmers’ pockets and ensuring more suckler cows disappear from British farms and crofts.
In a hard-hitting statement the NBA claimed the lack of competition in the UK beef industry was now “totally evident”, with bid prices from major processors staying on a par and always moving in the same direction.
The organisation’s chief executive, Chris Mallon, said talk of further price reductions next week demonstrated the “contempt” that processors are showing for farmers.
However, despite repeated requests, no one at the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) was prepared to respond to the allegations.
Instead, in a written statement, SAMW side-stepped the charges and said it had submitted proposals to the Scottish Government to revitalise the cattle herd, which “demonstrated support for the sector”.
The statement added: “There is no doubting that trading conditions are tough right now due to a combination of factors but with cattle numbers in Scotland at a historic low, competition to procure good quality stock has never been more intense.”
Mr Mallon said: “In that case the price should be rising. I’ve never heard of intense demand for anything which results in a fall in price week after week.”
The NBA added the reasons being given by procurement officers for price cuts all appeared to come from the “big book of processor excuses”.
“Reasons have included poor trade for offal, poor trade for hides and struggling consumer demand,” added Mr Mallon.
“All would have some credence if these same companies were not importing product to fill UK supermarket shelves.”
He said beef producers were facing a “complete imbalance of power” and called on the environment, food and rural affairs (Efra) committee in the House of Commons to investigate the problems in the beef sector as a matter of urgency. The Efra committee declined to comment.