Consumers not deterred by higher meat prices

A better deal for farmers could be on the way after a new five-year survey of consumers found higher prices would not effect sales of most cuts of meat.

The EBLEX research is based on data going back to 2002 and has prompted Thomas Binns, the NFU's national livestock chairman to call for immediate action: "British farmers are currently being paid an unsustainable price for rearing the best quality beef and lamb, and unless we see immediate change these farmers are going to get out."

The research shows that for beef mince, increasing the farmgate price by 10% would lead to a 5.9% increase in the retail price with only a corresponding 1.7% drop in sales.

It's a similar story for lamb mince, with a 10% producer price increase translating into a 2% increase in the price on shelf and a 0.8% drop in sales.

For lamb chops, an identical farmgate price increase would lead to a 3.1% increase in retail prices with a 1.3% drop in sales.

Chief executive of EBLEX, Richard Ali, said that processors, retailers and farmers should re-examine prices: "What the report shows is that there is some headroom for increased prices for certain cuts. Putting up prices for certain cuts won't put off most consumers.

"We think the whole supply chain should take a fresh look at pricing relationships. The market price levels at the moment don't appear to accurately reflect how consumers value beef and lamb."

The National Sheep Association (NSA) said the research was vital, and Peter Morris, chief executive of the NSA said unless farmers are paid more soon, Britain's farmers will die out: "We are seeing a decline in numbers every year and at the moment EBLEX figures show that virtually all producers are making a loss. They will not continue to do that, so unless there are price increases, production and capacity at the farmer level will be lost.

"This survey, which is very welcome news, clearly shows that there is scope within consumer level for price increases to take place without damage to consumption."