Following a number of visits to major supermarkets in the past week, NFU Scotland came out yesterday calling for the major retailers to buy more Scottish lamb. This would, union chiefs claim, drive a much-needed improvement in the fortunes of Scotland’s sheep farmers.
This action follows a collapse in the price of lamb, now at its lowest level since late 2009. This follows an autumn where sales were muted and there was no pre-Christmas lift in prices.
Aggravating the poor sale price, the ongoing poor weather has delayed the normal marketing pattern for lambs later into the season and this has left many producers facing a substantially higher feed bill to get the lambs ready for market.
The most recent “secret shopper” missions showed that Morrisons continued to stock only Scottish or British lamb while Sainsbury’s supported its Blackface lamb label but some imported packs of lamb were also to be found.
Tesco and Asda, while selling some Scottish or British produce, had substantial quantities of New Zealand and Australian lamb on their shelves.
Union president Nigel Miller, who was on the store visits, said this was a time when sheep farmers needed a confidence boost from major retailers. “Morrisons show what can be achieved with 100 per cent commitment to Scottish or British produce in the stores we visited,” he said.
“That contrasts starkly with the volume of New Zealand and Australian lamb that has stubbornly remained on the shelves of Tesco and Asda even during our peak marketing season in Scotland, when our lamb is at its freshest and tastiest.”
There is also a future worry, Miller adding: “Because of the weather, there are more lambs than normal still on Scottish farms and due to come forward as hoggs in the months ahead.”