Letter: Supermarket terror

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The ending of the worldwide ban on British beef is extremely welcome. However it would be easy to be under the misconception that all our troubles are over; far from it.

At present, we livestock farmers are failing to get a market price high enough to cover the cost of production, a problem which can be remedied if only the supermarkets' ruthless reign of terror brought to an end. The supermarkets have been far too quick to capitalise on the regrettable shortsightedness of some farmers who sell their livestock directly into supermarket-owned abattoirs, bypassing the live market system.

The supermarkets set a seductive price for livestock just above the average live market price. Premium livestock are tempted away from the market system, leaving only the animals which do not meet their specifications. This results in a lowering of the market average price the following week - the price from which the supermarkets will go on to base their subsequent premium. Every week that follows, the downward spiral continues, with lamb prices now at rock bottom.

For the many livestock markets which work on a commission basis the loss of throughput could well see the end of the live auction system. The supermarkets will then achieve a price monopoly.

The crash in farm gate prices for livestock has led to the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds to farmers this autumn alone. This huge blow to the economics of agriculture has contributed to the loss of many family farms. It will also prove to be a hurdle too high to overcome for many young farmers who would have been the next generation of this industry. As a young farmer myself, I am one of the few who choose to remain in agriculture, but with the current state of the industry this a decision I may be forced to reconsider.

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