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(Press statement - No embargo)


September 27th 2010

                Beef farmers cannot live on fresh air alone.

Greedy supermarkets should hang their heads and respond quickly to public criticism of their short sighted sales tactics before they force British farmers out of business.

The National Beef Association, is worried that the unrelenting squeeze the multiples continue to put on cattle values will close down British beef farms - and pull in imports from countries with lower animal welfare, and landscape conservation, standards instead.

"The grip these massive companies have on the future of farms which the British public appreciates, and likes to see, is like iron. This is why the NBA is asking for support from shoppers who know that without beef farms their local landscape would not be as well cared for, and think that a slightly higher price for local beef, produced to demanding high standards, is worth paying if it helps to keep the countryside intact," explained the Association's chairman, Oisin Murnion.

It is worried that if the 29 per cent fall in the average value of farm cattle recorded over the last 20 years continues hundreds of farms will shut down and cattle begin to disappear from green fields.

"We are understandably concerned. Like everyone else we face relentlessly rising costs but in real terms we were receiving 3.90 a carcase kilo for the cattle we sold back in 1990 while just last week our payment was down to a threadbare 272p," said Mr Murnion.

"We farmers enjoy producing high welfare stock, and taking good care of the land we farm, but like everyone else we must be able to make ends meet - and at the moment the supermarkets pay so little for beef that we cannot pull things together."

Updated production costs clearly show that it is impossible for any beef farmer, anywhere in the UK, to make a profit which means that more and more farms are hanging on by their finger tips.

Those working with the most expensive type of cattle, that are reared in fields and take milk from their mothers, need 4.10 a kilo just to break even, while those managing others bred from dairy cows and reared mainly indoors require 3.15.

"But the current 2.78 average we are offered comes nowhere near meeting what we need and the signs are that supermarkets are hoping to pay even less. The NBA is speaking directly to consumers because it wants them to understand that farmers, like everyone else, must earn enough to make a living."

"We like living and working in the countryside but unfortunately we cannot live on fresh air alone. If we are to continue to look after rural landscapes, and produce the right kind of beef cattle in the way that consumers want us to, then the supermarkets must help us by putting more money into the production system," Mr Murnion added.