English and Welsh beef farmers claim they have no immediate plans to mimic their Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts in mounting pickets related to South American imports and rock bottom prices.
Scottish producers were this week continuing to target supermarkets as part of a protest about the sale of Brazilian beef.
The National Farmers’ Union admitted it had not ruled out such action, but would attempt to bring retailers to the table first. Chief livestock advisor Peter King said English farmers shared their Scottish counterparts’ concerns over rising imports from South America and the low prices for domestic beef.
He admitted many members did want to protest. However, the
NFU’s livestock board was seeking meetings with retail, processing and catering representatives to negotiate a better deal for farmers before taking to the streets.
A lack of market signal clarity had been the problem, said King, with farmers producing heavier cattle in reaction to the CAP reforms but facing a downturn in demand this summer. “We want to be able to sell our product at a reasonable price,” he said, “and the best way is to sit down together and find ways to cut costs and sell more.”
A spokesman for the Farmers’ Union of Wales said it had not engaged in any discussion with members over protest action. “We’re not as militant as the Scots,” he said. However, the FUW shared concerns over South American beef imports.
The Scottish protests, organised by NFU Scotland, targeted the Co-op and Tesco last week, and followed pickets by Ulster Farmers’ Union members at a Tesco in Belfast.
Irish farmers have staged several protests in recent weeks against imports and low prices.
Quality Meat Scotland has announced plans to audit the proportion of imported beef sold in supermarkets.
Alyson Magee