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Stackyard News Oct 07

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Supermarkets Challenged Over Lamb Price

Scotland’s farming union is challenging the major supermarkets over the crippling collapse in the price paid to farmers for lamb since the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak; a period during which the retail price has actually increased.

NFUS is calling on supermarkets to live up to their responsibility to their suppliers and work with the whole supply chain to ensure Scotland’s sheep farmers can get through the current financial crisis.  The Union is hugely concerned that many farmers will decide to quit the industry unless the economics improve substantially.  Marks and Spencer has now announced that the price it pays to some of its farmer suppliers will return to pre-FMD levels and NFUS believes all the major supermarkets must do at least the same as a first step towards a fairer supply chain and sustainable sheep industry.

In a letter sent to Asda, the Co-op, Morrison, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, NFUS has highlighted figures from the Meat and Livestock Commission which show that the average retail price for lamb is 2.2% higher than it was before disease outbreak.  Prices to farmers however have dropped by nearly a quarter (see notes for details).

Nigel Miller, NFUS Vice President and a sheep farmer from the Borders, said:

“The sheep industry is on its knees.  Whilst the domestic foot and mouth restrictions have been lifted, export restrictions remain and the price, which was far too low before the outbreak, has now fallen through the floor.  Farmers are increasingly angry and disillusioned at seeing a year’s work come to nothing.  It is unbelievable that supermarket shelf prices have actually risen during the same period that they have been financially hammered.  We are demanding an explanation for that.  We are making huge losses at the moment and I fear the current crisis could force many out of the industry.

 “In many ways, supermarkets have as much responsibility to Scotland’s sheep industry and rural communities as government does.  They are well aware of the problems as we have been in dialogue with them since the first FMD case in August, however they have yet to properly respond. They pride themselves on choice and availability but the farmers who rear the lamb for their shelves are questioning whether they can afford to carry on.  There is no doubt supermarkets are doing more to promote local food, but if that doesn’t translate into a fair price it is meaningless.

 “If supermarkets want to ensure their customers have the same level of choice and availability, they must take far more responsibility for what is happening to farmers on the ground.  That means they need to work with processors to deliver a price which reflects the high standards we produce food to.  It also means supporting the promotional work carried out by Quality Meat Scotland and helping to make shoppers aware of the quality of Scotch lamb and encouraging them to play their part in securing the future of Scotland’s farms and rural communities.”

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NFU Scotland