URGENT action needs to be taken to support the British beef sector, the National Farmers’ Union have said.

With beef markets currently at a three-year low, NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts has called for “united action” between farmers, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in order to re-establish sustainable returns.

Mr Roberts’ call for action also included processors and retailers, who he encouraged to promote British Red Tractor beef, to help shoppers make informed choices about the origin of their purchases.

“There is a real danger that without urgent action the supply chain and Government will see a bad situation rapidly worsen in the weeks ahead,” Mr Roberts said.

“There is real concern that with over 70% of cattle being processed by five or six companies who supply 10 retailers, this lack of competition allows value to be taken out of the market.”

Mr Roberts also called on the AHDB to establish the impact of overseas buyer confidence and knock-on effects to farm gate price after the Brexit date on October 31, so that it can prioritise its resources to support promotional efforts at home and abroad to increase consumption of British beef, through highlighting the differential standards of UK production.

“Defra also has important questions to answer,” Mr Roberts said. “It’s several weeks since the EU approved the Irish Government’s €100M beef crisis support package. Livestock farmers want to know, what assessment has Defra made of this package? And with the majority of Irish beef entering the UK market, has this subsidy the potential to distort the UK beef price?

“Policies must be put in place that will improve margins for those who keep beef cows and to help secure a better future for the British beef sector.”