Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Balancing the beef market for the greater good

There is no doubt that the English beef sector has taken great strides from where we were just three or four years ago.  Back in 2009, EBLEX produced a report entitled In The Balance? which took a long, hard look at our industry and highlighted some stark realities. It urged a more strategic approach and global outlook for a sector that had seen a 27 per cent decline in the breeding herd between 1990 and 2007, with cattle prices lower in real terms than they were nearly 20 years earlier.


“The short-termism of some key players in the beef supply chain, combined with the apparent lack of awareness on the part of policy-makers and the public of the steady attrition of the beef industry, means that we are sleep-walking towards the irretrievable decline of a critical part of our farming industry,” said EBLEX chairman John Cross at the time. Strong words indeed but the industry did seem to react and galvanise itself. We hope the report served to stimulate debate and nudge things in the right direction.


So where are we now? A completely different place – and yet significant challenges remain. Doubts remain about the ability of the supply chain to continue to deliver as we sit amid the gathering storm of rapidly growing global demand for a product that is in decreasing supply. And approaches to securing the supply chain need to move with the times.
 

So EBLEX this week published Balancing the Market, an updated In The Balance? if you like, looking at how we have moved on but highlighting that, as a result, the sector now had a different dynamic that needed a shift in approach and attitudes from all links in the supply chain.


 “We need an era of greater co-operation to tackle shared challenges. Long-established working practices of [retailers] simply looking to buy more cheaply from alternative markets if domestic product becomes scarce or is considered too expensive are unlikely to be sustainable as global supply continues to tighten,” says John this time.


It points to the fact we are now – again – a major player on the global meat trading scene and this brings huge opportunities for our producers and processors in terms of improved prices and returns – but also exposes us to additional risks. It is not clear if all those involved in the industry are quite clear on how the game has changed. A greater spirit of understanding, if not co-operation, will help us all in the long run.
 

You can read the full report by clicking here and the press release here.