NFU hits out at Tesco on British lamb policy

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond has strongly criticised Tesco for promoting New Zealand lamb during the prime UK lamb season, which “misleads consumers”.

Tesco received criticism on Twitter yesterday (15 July) over promotions on New Zealand lamb. The supermarket responded tweeting: “With the large demand for lamb, we cannot always guarantee consistent UK stock.”

Raymond reacted to the Tweet in a statement: “I find this comment almost as ridiculous as last September’s statement from Tesco that British lamb was “not in season at the moment in the UK”. I am angry and disappointed that this comes only 18 months after giving such positive undertakings on its sourcing and supply chains for red meat.

“The figures speak for themselves. The UK was self-sufficient in lamb last year and lamb numbers are even higher this year. We have more than enough lamb available.”

This comes a week after Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, wrote to retailers calling them to put British lamb at the front and centre of their displays, stating “there is absolutely no excuse” for it not to take centre place. The letter also highlighted how lamb from the Southern Hemisphere was at the end of its season.

Raymond continued: “I believe that promoting New Zealand lamb over British, and Tesco’s attempts to justify this, misleads consumers about the seasonality of lamb and sends a signal to farmers that Tesco is not prepared to promote the benefits of food produced in the UK. Why promote end-of-season product, which many view as inferior, over Red Tractor-assured, fresh lamb produced in the fields, valleys and hills of England and Wales?

“By these actions Tesco is failing to live up to the commitments made by Philip Clarke at the NFU Conference last year that Tesco should be the best supporter of British farmers and that it wished to shorten the supply chain.

“Consumers want to buy our great British product and know when it is in peak season, so it is vitally important at this time of year to give clearly-labelled, home-grown lamb pride of place, when there is a good, affordable and fresh supply on our doorstep. A YouGov survey commissioned by the NFU after the horsemeat scandal showed that 79% of British people thought that British supermarkets should sell more food produced on British farms.”

Tesco told it is also running promotions on British lamb: “We sell more British lamb than any other retailer, and we are proud to sell and promote British lamb to our millions of customers right across the UK.  We know it is a great product and we want to ensure that we sell it in large volumes when it is at the peak of its season. This season we expect to sell more British lamb than ever before and over the next few weeks we are running fantastic half price promotions on British lamb in our stores.

“We are delivering on our commitment to strengthen our relationships with British sheep farmers through our Tesco Sustainable Lamb Group, which currently supports around 200 farmers. We are proud of our work together to bring great quality, affordable British lamb to our customers.”

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