Beef suppliers in Uruguay and Argentina are getting better terms from UK supermarkets than their UK counterparts, the NFU has claimed.

Since the EU placed a month-long ban on Brazilian beef imports, Uruguayan and Argentinian suppliers have plugged the estimated 2,500 tonne gap and been rewarded for their efforts with forward supply contracts and a price increase of about 10% .

NFU's chief livestock adviser Peter King said he was disappointed that Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda had decided to commit to Uruguayan suppliers, before considering similar commitments to British farmers.

"Tesco and other retailers will say we will always need to import a certain proportion of beef from abroad to maintain demand but if they can agree a formal supply commitment to countries on the other side of the world, why can't they offer the same security of supply with our own meat producers?" King told The Grocer.

"The Brazilian ban and price hikes have prompted the UK meat processing industry to sit down and examine their supply chain and retailers must do the same."

He called on the big four to introduce forward supply contracts and do more to support the UK beef industry. "Now is the perfect time for the likes of Asda and Tesco to follow Waitrose in making a firm price commitment to British farmers who are operating in a volatile market."

However, Liz Murphy, director of the International Meat Trade Association, stressed the consumer should have the option of choosing where their meat was sourced from.

"The knock-on effects of the Brazilian ban illustrate the importance of having a choice of different suppliers," Murphy said.

"You cannot rely on one supply source - be it domestic or another country. Supporting our own meat industry at the expense of foreign imports would be a dangerous move."

Tesco insisted that its beef imports from South America were minimal.