Farmers have complained about a lack of support following Brexit after supermarket giant Asda decided to backtrack on its pledge to only sell British beef.
The retailer argued the reason behind its decision to now also sell Irish beef is higher UK beef prices – having registered a 20 per cent cost increase for UK beef, whilst Irish beef is about 20 per cent cheaper than British meat.
Although the supermarket chain committed to only sourcing British beef in 2020, it only managed to fulfil its promise last October – prompting the National Beef Association to express disappointment that Asda only managed to do so for two months.
‘The price of British beef has risen’
“Asda may claim beef is too expensive, but it can’t be produced at a lower price,” Neil Shand, NBA’s chief executive, said.
In a statement quoted by The Guardian, Asda said: “We know that it is important to our customers that the beef on our shelves has been produced to high welfare standards and is affordable.
“Unfortunately, the price of British beef has risen and whilst we continue to work hard to keep prices as low as possible for our customers, these increases are significant.”
The spokesperson added that all the beef sold under the premium Extra Special range will stay completely British.
UK farmers ‘need support from supermarket chains because of Brexit’
Richard Findlay, chair of the livestock board of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said UK farmers need support from supermarket chains because of changes made to agricultural policies after Brexit.
“Given the significant changes to trade and agricultural policy, it is more important than ever that our retailers champion British food and farming and that, fundamentally, any sourcing commitments they make are honoured,” Findlay said.
The news come amid revelations that farmers in England will have their direct payments, worth £1.8 billion in 2019-2020 through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, cut by over half by 2025 and completely taken away in 2027, under new government moves.
And a new parliamentary report warned the “blind optimism” shown by Tory ministers could force many small and tenant farmers in England out of business, whilst accusing them of not doing enough to gain farmers’ trust in delivering crucial plans.
Farmers set to be paid less under new government plans
Under government plans, farmers are encouraged to free up land for environmental reasons.
But the report warned this would means England will import more of its food, often from countries with poorer environmental standards, making the UK more dependent on food from abroad and making food prices more expensive.
The paper also warned this is likely to lead to farms getting bigger, which will in turn harm the environment, against government hopes.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is intending to match the £2.4 billion worth of subsidies given by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to UK farmers every year.
But this comes with an intention to cut the amount of direct payments, depending on the size of the land farmed, according to The Independent.