FARMERS are threatening to refuse to send their animals to slaughter if they don’t receive a fair price for their stock.
At an emergency meeting in Wooler, Northumberland, this week, attended by more than 100 farmers, it was decided that farmers should fight back if livestock prices plummet like they did during the last foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001.
At that time, prices for lambs dropped from 237p per kg deadweight to just 141p, and from 148p per kg liveweight to just 66p, although prices in the shops did not drop accordingly.
It was a similar situation for cattle, with prices dropping 15p-25p per kg deadweight, which equated to a loss of £48-£80 an animal. Although processors and retailers have said that they will not take advantage of the situation, North-East farmers are considering setting a base figure below which they will refuse to sell their stock.
And they hope that their stance will be adopted nationwide. If prices do start to nosedive, then another emergency meeting will be held in the region, where a price may be set.
NFU livestock board vice-chairman Malcolm Corbett, from Rochester, said: “The farmers were in no mood to see the value of their lambs plummet this autumn and are prepared to work with other farmers to do their best to resist unnecessary price predation, and also put a bottom in the market, should circumstances make this necessary.
“However, it was also stressed that farmers need to study the market place and not flood it with cattle and sheep so that a big price drop becomes inevitable. Farmers should discuss their selling requirements with their agents to help maintain supply and demand.”
Tenant Farmers Association chairman Reg Haydon said: “I see no reason why the processors and retailers should pay any less for livestock now than what they were paying a week ago before the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease occurred. The economics of livestock production are already very marginal for the farmer and any downward pressure on prices will only add to the misery and financial burden facing the industry as a result of the FMD outbreak.
“I am, therefore, calling on the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and WM Morrison not to think about attempting to cash in on the current crisis.
“Prices are holding at the moment but the market is very fragile. Farmers deserve a sustainable return for what they do and we want to ensure that as many as possible survive this current crisis as this is essential to maintaining our nation’s food security.”
Dr Charles Trotman, the Country Land and Business Association’s rural economy adviser, said: “I hope that the chief executives who control the big supermarkets will instruct their meat buyers to recognise the need for long-term partnerships and avoid the temptation to make a quick profit at the expense of those who have had to shoulder the burden of this disease.”