Imports certain to rise sharply over the next two years due to FMD Supermarket operators are allegedly denying consumers the opportunity to pay more for beef, instead using misleading labels and packaging to trick shoppers into buying meat at unnecessarily low prices. This is one implication of an attack by cattle producers' spokesman Robert Robinson, chairman of the National Beef Association, which appears to signal the start of yet another campaign against cheap imports. However, this time the militant NBA acknowledges it cannot prevent the major retailers sourcing an increasing proportion of total beef supply from overseas. Imports are certain to rise sharply over the next couple of years, mainly a consequence of the FMD crisis squeezing home output. Robinson apparently believes it possible to protect his producers against price pressure from the foreign supply by compelling supermarkets to sell British beef at a premium. "We know there is genuine consumer interest in the home-killed product and that more consumers are prepared not just to buy it ahead of its competition but pay more for it too," Robinson claimed on Monday. The NBA's focus is on the new EU country of origin labelling legislation, due to be implemented on January 1. The association reckons "it is difficult not to believe there is an intention among some retailers that consumers should be misled about the origin of beef" and will press DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency to ensure the rules are applied promptly. "There can be no doubt more imported beef will be coming in and there is every chance it will be just as cheap as now, and these relentless discounts will further undermine the value of our increasingly scarce prime cattle," said Robinson. {{M/E MEAT }}