Farmers are subsidising retailers, consumers and processors by using coupled support payments from the EU to make up for market income that is lower than the cost of production, says the National Beef Association.
NBA chief executive Robert Forster told the Association’s Beef Expo event near Edinburgh that beef producers must wake up to the threats and opportunities that will follow the switch to decoupled payments in January.
He said they should not use the single farm payment to continue to make life easy for shoppers, supermarkets and slaughterers.
“For decades, farmers have been falsely accused of growing fat on taxpayers’ money,” he said. “Contrary to popular opinion most, and occasionally all, their subsidy income has been used to underpin the sale price of slaughter cattle and make beef cheaper in shops and catering outlets.
“Farmers who continue to use their support payments to routinely fill the gap between cost of production and market income will paint themselves into a financial corner from which it will be impossible to escape when the SFP is finally withdrawn.”
Forster also fired a warning at retailers that the future of the British beef supply chain depended on them paying a fair price for the meat.
“Retailers and caterers must acknowledge that the change from direct to decoupled support payments is more radical than they think,” he said.