THE SOIL Association (SA) has called on the hospitality and retail sectors to help prevent the collapse of the British organic beef farming industry.
In a recently-released SA report on the plight of organic beef farming in the UK, supermarkets and processors are blamed for driving down the market to such an extent that British farmers have been forced to sell at losses as high as 40p a kilo, due to buyers’ unscrupulous willingness to buy cheaper imported beef instead.
The Farmgate price has been labelled unfair and unsustainable, and coupled with increasing feed costs and anticipated cuts in the single payment scheme, endangers organic meat security and development.
These issues are not limited to beef - every other organic meat sector has been affected.
The report highlights beef as an institutional British product, and has gone as far as approximating that the carbon footprint of Welsh beef is 282.1g smaller than it’s Argentinean rival purchased in England - equivalent to wasting the energy it takes to run an empty fridge 24 hours a day for three months.
Rising levels of imports contradict Government recommendations laid out in the Organic Action Plan, and fly in the face of British consumers’ increasing desire for more ethical and locally sourced food and drink.
The hospitality world and trade at large are perfectly placed to lead the field in addressing the issue, paying a fair price and promoting and supporting British producers, according to the SA.
Phil Stocker, head of food and farming at the SA, said: “There is a clear and urgent need to relocalise food production and distribution, given the challenges we face from climate change and peak oil.
“Countries like the UK should be building their food supplies around their indigenous population, with limited trade to fill in the gaps.
“Organic farmers should play their part by joining organic marketing groups, if they have not already done so.
“This approach is essential to give greater collective activity and organisation to the market place – smaller scale spot trading into national markets is not sustainable or desirable for anyone in the longer term.”