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Stackyard News Jan 07

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NBA presses David Milliband on food prices rises

The National Beef Association has asked David Milliband why government does not believe retail price rises are needed to counter the damaging impact of coupled subsidy removal on UK farming – and on the beef sector in particular.

NBA chairman, Duff Burrell

NBA chairman, Duff Burrell

It is also looking for a straight answer from the Secretary of State on whether government is encouraging supermarkets to sit on food price inflation and keep retail prices for UK produced food as low as possible.

And if government accepts that, because coupled subsidies were designed to make cheap food available to the nation, their removal two years ago should mean speedy compensatory adjustments in retail prices are both inevitable and necessary.

The move follows consistent reports from inside the food industry that government frowns heavily at any suggestion of food price rises and repeated conjecture within agriculture itself that government is deliberately sitting on retailers so it can maintain low inflation levels.

“If this is true it is unacceptable because it means that government is encouraging farmers to re-connect with the market at the same time as it interferes with the value fixing process on which they depend for survival,” explained NBA chairman, Duff Burrell.

“There can be no doubt that the subsidy system introduced after the last World War was aimed at making sure there were ample supplies of cheap food for the nation. Now this support system has been dismantled there should be an automatic compensatory rise in retail prices but so far this has not happened and farmers have been left, on their own, to continue to produce cheap food because there has been no help from the market.”

“Over the last two years the National Beef Association has worked hard to make sure that everyone connected with food and farming is aware of the need for farmers to earn more market income so future production collapses can be avoided.”

“During our talks with the food industry there has been repeated reference to unrelenting government interest in low food price inflation and as a result we have formed the conclusion it has a direct interest in maintaining low retail prices which seriously contradicts its constant, post-decoupling, encouragement to farmers to seek salvation from the open market”

“Last week we asked Mr Milliband directly whether the government is actively discouraging retailers, who are sensitive to competition and profit level issues and very keen to maintain a careful relationship with government, from meeting the need to raise the retail value of profitless products like beef, and we are very much looking forward to his reply,” Mr Burrell added.

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