“Loose talk in bars” about delays to the lifting of the Over Thirty Months beef rule will simply encourage processors and retailers to import more meat, the National Beef Association has warned.
Vice-chairman Frank Momber said the “Jeremiahs and pessimists” should realise that uninformed predictions of a likely failure in Defra’s efforts to secure an early autumn start for the return of OTM cattle could undermine the price of the first cows offered for sale.
Talk of delays would encourage importers to commit themselves to manufacturing beef deliveries well beyond the expected September return of domestic cows to the market.
He added: “Defra has set itself a daunting timetable if the target of a September start is to be achieved but has stuck to its task and is on track. It will not be until there is a successful conclusion to the FSA’s board meeting in July that Defra will be able to nominate a start day.
“However, there is no reason for the industry to anticipate bad news.
“Importers in Ireland are much more likely to begin re-directing beef in late summer that would otherwise be targeted at the UK if they feel domestic cows will be on offer in early September. And there is no advantage in encouraging them to think otherwise.
“Excessive supplies of both imported and domestic beef on the market this autumn would get our post-OTM recovery off to the worst-possible start.
“If our cow beef processors are pawing the ground and ready to sell, then an average deadweight price of around 120p/kg for cows will be immediately realistic."