Big Supermarkets Threaten Welsh Organics Industry by Going for Cheap Meat Imports

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 11, 2008 | Go to article overview

Big Supermarkets Threaten Welsh Organics Industry by Going for Cheap Meat Imports


Byline: By Tim Lewis Western Mail

Organic Welsh beef is being forced off the supermarket shelves by cheaper imports of organic meat flown half way around the world. Despite growing concern about food miles and the impact food production has on the environment, the Soil Association claims that supermarkets are snubbing local produce because they are unwilling to pay the home-grown organic premium. The move could sound the death knell for Wales' pounds 4.2m-a-year organic beef industry and deny shoppers the choice of a quality product. Although some sectors of the organic food market are booming, imports of red meat have increased for the first time in six years. The Soil Association said the economical and environmental effects of importing meat from more than 8,000 miles away could devastate the industry.

It said a slowing in sales of organic red meat, combined with spiralling costs and the low prices being paid by supermarkets, is leading to a number of farmers questioning the financial viability of UK production.

Its Where's the Beef? report said, "Instead of creating the conditions needed to bolster farmer confidence and boost UK production, overall the major supermarkets are collectively failing to pay an average price that is fair and sustainable for UK organic beef producers."

Jonathan Rees, 29, who runs the award-winning Welsh Farm Organics in the Dugwm Valley, near Newtown, with his wife Sally, said the Welsh beef market was becoming difficult to sustain.

"I don't know how the supermarkets can afford to sell it at the price they do," he said. "We have to sell ours at a higher price than them or we would not be able to sustain our business.

"They only seem to put organic foods in their stores to show face - they are more concerned with quantity not quality.

"Our beef is hung for 21 days but you don't get that with the supermarket beef. Our customers want the best so they budget to buy home-grown Welsh beef and have it less often.

"We offer a level of service the supermarket can't compete with because we can give advice about how to cook things, how to make use of the full carcass and things like that.

"It is vital the supermarkets switch to local produce but unfortunately they are just catering for what people want - cheap meat."

In 2002 just 30% of organic produce bought in the UK came from UK farmers. Today more than two-thirds of organic foods in supermarkets comes from the UK as the numbers of UK organic producers has reached more than 4,500. …

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