By Debbie James

A Welsh butcher and livestock farmer says upping the red meat levy could allow the industry to promote its way out of the beef price crash.

Cattle farmers currently pay £4.34 to Hybu Cig Cymru from the sale of every adult animal.

Clive Swan suggests this should be increased, to boost promotional campaigns.

Speaking at an NFU beef summit at the Royal Welsh Show Mr Swan said: “We need to be bankrupting the levy boards to educate and promote, we have to put our foot on the throttle.’’

As a butcher, he says he spends thousands of pounds a year to stimulate meat sales, giving out free samples and attending events.

As a producer he said he should share more of that cost burden through the levy he pays to Hybu Cig Cymru.

“The levy boards need cash like never before, a £4.34 levy on a single animal that is being sold for over £1,000 is not enough,’’ said Mr Swan, whose butcher’s shop near Mold won a Countryside Alliance award in 2018.

“As both a farmer and a butcher, the amount I spend on promotion is far in excess of what I pay in levy.’’

Mr Swan admits his proposal will not sit well with beef farmers at a time when many are making a loss on cattle sales but he insisted drastic measures are needed.

“When you see the promotional activity that a company like Kelloggs does to sell a few cornflakes, as an industry we need to be doing more,’’ he told farming union presidents from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

While investing more money in promotional activity might provide some solutions, the NFU says more pressure must be put on governments to change their strategy on public procurement.

NFU president Minette Batters said the price bar on government contracts for supplying food contracts to hospitals, schools and other public sector bodies is so low that it is impossible for British suppliers to compete with bids from overseas.

Together with her counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – John Davies, Andrew McCornick and Ivor Ferguson – she has now put her signature to a set of urgent measures which she believes will help ease the crisis, including a government review of public procurement.

Among the other measures put forward are:

* An intense and co-ordinated period of product promotion and innovation by retailers and processors to help stimulate demand for safe, high quality, fully traceable Red Tractor beef

* An awareness raising campaign behind UK beef production by the UK levy bodies

* A call on retailers to ensure any marketing on origin and sourcing is clear at the point of sale and for food service providers to give clear country of origin labelling for all beef products

* An assessment on the impact on the UK beef market of the €100 million cash boost provided to Irish beef farmers

What the farmers think

Would upping the cost of the red meat levy to farmers allow the beef industry to promote its way out of the current price crisis?

Debbie James spoke to beef farmers in the cattle lines at the Royal Welsh Show to gauge their opinion.

Geraint Jenkins, dairy and beef farmer, Cerrigcaranau Farm, Talybont, Ceredigion

“It is important to spend money on promotion and advertising but the levy boards need make better use of what farmers already pay into that pot. Money is tight enough right now, as farmers we are constantly being told to be more efficient and have to make sure every cog is turning to get it right. Hybu Cig Cymru must do the same. I would like to see better structures in place for existing activity and, until that happens, I think there would be resistance from farmers to paying a higher levy.’’

Tom Houghton, beef farmer, Houghton Herefords, Cheshire

“Before we are asked to dip into our pockets I would like to see the farming unions doing more with our membership money to challenge the vegan brigade on their anti-meat messages. What are they doing to counterbalance that? If the unions cut down on some of the hierarchy and expense and did more for grassroots farmers, we wouldn’t be in this position now.’’

Steve and Sharon Hookway, Waldencourt Charolais, Newent, Gloucestershire

“We wouldn’t be against paying a little bit more if it meant we could get a fair price but any promotional activity must be targeted in the right places. It is no good spending our money on promoting meat to farmers which seems to be the case right now.’’