The NFU has appealed to supermarkets and abattoirs to raise the price they pay for British beef and lamb.

In a sign that the union is stepping up its efforts to communicate the problems faced by livestock farmers, the plea was made by NFU president Peter Kendall, speaking at the Devon County Show. He said beef producers needed an extra £1/kg for their animals in order to cover their costs and leave enough for investing in the business. Lamb producers needed 62p/kg more to be profitable.

"It would be nothing short of a tragedy if the red meat sector cannot maintain the critical mass of breeding animals to maintain supply in the short term to take advantages of the opportunities that undoubtedly lie ahead," Kendall said.

Retailers and processors had failed to appreciate that CAP reform had created a situation where it was easier than ever for unprofitable farmers to quit production, he said, adding that farmers needed forward contracts at meaningful prices.