Farmers react angrily to lamb ‘not in season’ claim

Sheep farmers struggling with low farmgate prices will be upset to hear staff in some UK supermarkets are telling customers UK lamb is not in season. 

According to the National Sheep Association (NSA), it was shocked to hear that staff in some supermarkets were suggesting to customers that UK lamb was not in season, which they said was the reason for high volumes of New Zealand lamb on supermarket shelves.

This news, said the NSA, was a “bitter blow” for UK sheep farmers at a time of low farmgate prices, as well as a time when few were receiving financial returns-enough to cover the costs of production.

The NSA said: “Farmgate prices dropped to an unacceptable level in the autumn, with the value of a single lamb being up to £30 less than a year ago, but this has still not resulted in lower retail prices that would encourage more consumers to buy and enjoy British lamb.

“Given that New Zealand lamb on supermarket shelves is not as cheap as it has been historically, a better pricing structure in supermarkets, a wider selection of UK cuts and better presentation on-shelf would benefit shoppers and farmers alike.”

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker highlighted poor weather last summer as a factor in the slow growth of lambs, which delayed the “normal” seasonal peak of UK lamb production by six to eight weeks. However, Stocker said: “Unfortunately this peak then clashed with New Zealand imports, which has led to a severe fall in prices. In an ideal world, the result would be a drop in shelf price, which would stimulate more demand with the price balancing itself out, but the realities of our markets mean this is not happening.

“While the UK always sees a seasonal peak and trough in numbers of lambs marketed, the nature of our farms means there is never a time when UK lamb is out of season. Across the UK, we have a varied climate which results in earlier and later lambing and this, in itself, spreads the supply of lambs. In addition, when you consider the close relationship between sheep farming and our iconic landscapes – our hills and uplands, downland, lowland meadows and coastal marshes – and the diversity of breeds they support, it is easy to see why quality lamb is available all year round.”


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