ANGER AS STORE’S BRITISH LAMB FACINGS PLUNGE
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.”