From: Reuters
Published January 5, 2008 02:17 AM

Low prices seen threat to UK organic beef

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers must pay more for domestically produced organic beef because current prices are unfair and unsustainable, a leading organic food certification body said on Friday.

The Soil Association said in a report issued on Friday that some key supermarkets are not paying enough to cover production costs and choosing to import organic beef even though there could easily be enough supply in Britain.

The report called on retailers and processors to increase the prices they pay for U.K.-produced organic beef by at least 10 percent next year and offer long-term supply contracts.

In 2005, the most recent year with reliable data, the proportion of organic red meat from U.K. producers sold through British supermarkets fell to 79 percent from 85 percent.

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"Unless we overhaul market structures, and implement some of the changes suggested in the report, there won't be a U.K. organic beef sector of any scale," Phil Stocker, the Soil Association's Head of Food and Farming, said in a statement.

The Soil Association argued that importing organic beef from Argentina led to about eight times the transport emissions compared to a similar joint of Welsh beef, based on sale in south-east England.

"The issues raised in this beef report are similar or worse for every organic meat sector," Stocker said.

"There is a clear and urgent need to relocalize food production and distribution, given the challenges we face from climate change and peak oil."

(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Peter Blackburn)

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