North Wales Weekly News - - WRITTEN BY YOU - BY AN­DREW FOR­GRAVE

TESCO is again un­der fire from farm­ers af­ter the amount of Bri­tish lamb on its shelves fell dra­mat­i­cally this sum­mer.

Latest fig­ures from AHDB Beef and Lamb Watch re­vealed the su­per­mar­ket’s lamb fac­ings in Au­gust were 15% lower than in Au­gust 2014.

Farm lead­ers said Tesco’s lack of com­mit­ment to do­mes­tic lamb was a “kick in the teeth” for Bri­tain’s sheep sec­tor.

Protesters have pledged to restart de­pot block­ades amid sus­pi­cions the re­tail gi­ant is wait­ing to clear stocks of im­ported New Zealand lamb be­fore it re­fo­cuses on do­mes­tic lamb sales.

NFU Cymru deputy pres­i­dent John Davies said that, at Tesco’s AGM in June, the re­tailer had re­it­er­ated pledges to source more meat closer to home.

He said: “These fig­ures from AHDB seem to in­di­cate that Tesco is say­ing one thing but do­ing another.

“Tesco sup­port for do­mes­tic lamb is not just be­low av­er­age, it ap­pears to be bot­tom of the pile.”

The AHDB re­port said Waitrose, Bud­gens, Aldi and Mor­risons all had 100% fac­ings of Bri­tish lamb.

The Co-op­er­a­tive, Sains­bury’s, ASDA and Lidl were im­prov­ing but “could do bet­ter”, added Mr Davies.

Tesco’s Bri­tish lamb fac­ings in Au­gust dropped to 58%, down from 73% 12 months pre­vi­ously.

A Tesco spokesman said the com­pany was proud to be the big­gest buyer of qual­ity Bri­tish lamb.

But he added: “To en­sure our cus­tomers have con­sis­tently high qual­ity lamb all year round we source from both the UK and New Zealand.

“New Zealand lamb is also recog­nised by cus­tomers as a great qual­ity prod­uct and is con­sis­tently good value through­out the year.

“This helps us to keep lamb af­ford­able for our cus­tomers and meet the de­mand for pop­u­lar cuts.”

Tesco this week an­nounced plans to grow its Sus­tain­able Dairy Group (TSDG) by 25% from Novem­ber.

Its 600 farmer mem­bers cur­rently re­ceive 30.93ppl, thought this will fall to 30.58ppl from Novem­ber 1.

The re­tailer is also aim­ing to ex­pand its Sus­tain­able Lamb Group part­ner­ship in which 200 farm­ers re­ceive a price pre­mium for meat pro­cessed at St Mer­ryn, part of 2 Sis­ters Food Group.

Mr Davies said this was a pos­i­tive move, but he added: “This will take time for farm­ers to see the ben­e­fits.

“We need to see pos­i­tive steps now to source Bri­tish lamb which is at its best.”

Mean­while, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), the Welsh red meat body, be­lieves there are grounds for cau­tious op­ti­mism af­ter a sharp de­cline in the New Zealand flock.

By the end of June, the coun­try’s to­tal sheep num­bers had fallen 4.1% to 28.6m head in 12 months, ac­cord­ing to the latest fig­ures from Beef and Lamb New Zealand.

With fewer breed­ing ewes on the ground, lamb pro­duc­tion for the 2015/16 sea­son is also ex­pected to be down, by around 7.2%.

As a re­sult lamb ex­ports are forecast to de­cline 6.3% to 354,600 tonnes.

HCC’s Char­lotte Mor­ris said: “This could have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the do­mes­tic mar­ket around the Christ­mas and New Year pe­riod.”

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