The cost of imported beef has rocketed by as much as 30-35% following bans on exports from Argentina and a foot-and-mouth scare in Brazil.
Peter Allen, of Aubrey Allen catering butchers, said an 8oz piece of sirloin from South America, which until recently cost £2.60 is now fetching as much as £3.50.
The situation is so bad that suppliers believe fixed-price procurement contracts with large catering firms, hotels or restaurants will have to be broken.
"Suppliers will do their hardest not to upset the most prestigious clients, but it will certainly impact upon those lower down the pecking order," said Ian Gauld, director at purchasing consortium Tricon IPA. "Those without a contract had better start looking for alternatives."
The pressure on supplies is set to raise meat prices across the board, compounded by a slump in demand for poultry across the Continent in the wake of the avian flu scare.
By Dan Bignold
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