THE National Farmers’ Union has demanded a meeting with the farming minister to discuss the worsening crisis in the UK beef market.

Presidents of the NFU and NFU Cymru, Minette Batters and John Davies called for the urgent meeting with George Eustice after the beef price across finished and store cattle plummeted to well below the cost of production in recent months.

Ms Batters described prices as ‘criminally low’, and said that the prolonged period of low cattle prices was putting huge pressure on farming businesses.

“The current price that farmers are receiving for their cattle is completely unsustainable and falls well below the cost of production. This is simply unacceptable. The returns to farmers must enable this industry to remain sustainable or we will start to see people leaving the industry,” she said.

“I will be asking the minister how Defra plan to investigate the beef sector and address its transparency and fairness. If unfair practices are found to pervade this market then they must be dealt with.”

Ms Batters went on to warn that prices could continue to fall in the beef sector, as well as others, should Britain leave without a deal by the October 31 deadline, which would see British farmers lose access to their largest trading partner.

“It is critical that the Government address these issues urgently before chasing down widespread reform of agricultural support.”

Mr Davies said: “We have reached crisis point in the beef market.

“Let’s be clear, the sustainability of specialist beef production is at stake here.

“Farmers’ frustration at the operation of the marketplace is at boiling point.

“The UK Government has a duty to ensure fair and functioning supply chains and we ask that they investigate this as a matter of urgency.

“I look forward to meeting the minister with Minette to discuss this critical issue for our members as a matter of urgency.”

The call for a meeting came after the union asked Defra for clarity on the cause of the crisis earlier this month, with NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay pointing out that farmers were now getting £200 to £300 per animal less than they were in the previous months.

“We have been dealing with incredibly low prices for months and the situation is not sustainable,” Mr Findlay said.

“We do need to better promote our products, it is clear that there is a market for British beef so it’s difficult to understand where this low price has come from.”