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Union Concern at Lamb Import Levels
2012-07-18

A follow-up survey by NFU Scotland members and staff has found that a worrying and disappointing level of imported lamb remains on many Scottish supermarket shelves despite the Scottish and UK lamb season being well underway.

photo © Jennifer MacKenzie

lambs

The Union first looked at lamb in May when NFUS President Nigel Miller turned ‘secret shopper’ for a day and visited supermarket stores in Edinburgh and the Borders. Mr Miller, Food Chain Relationships Manager Wendy Fleming and Livestock Policy Manager John Sleigh carried out a follow up visit to those same stores, and others, in the past two days.

While some supermarkets continue to show tremendous commitment to British or Scottish lamb, significant volumes of New Zealand and Australian lamb was still found in the Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda stores visited. By contrast, all fresh lamb in the Morrisons and Aldi stores visited was British or Scottish. Sadly, the Lidl store inspected had no fresh lamb on offer.

The 2012 season for lamb has already seen significant fluctuations in prices and worries that Euro problems will impact on export opportunities. Producers had a justifiable expectation that home produced product would be filling almost all the shelf space in Scottish stores by this time of the season and NFUS will now pick up with some retailers as to why that isn’t the case.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said:

“The message to certain retailers is clear. At a time of year when supplies of quality Scottish and British lamb are increasing, it is a huge disappointment to find critical shelf space is still being taken up by this level of imports.

“The market for lambs is softer than last season and prone to a greater degree of volatility than seen in recent seasons. With the Euro also weak, and the export market less attractive, it’s increasingly important that we have a strong, viable home market.

“We know that consumers want and expect to see Scottish produce on the shelf and many of our retailers are failing to give them what they want. The level of mixing of imported and home produced products on some supermarket shelves is confusing when there is a genuine level of interest in the provenance and country of origin of lamb. We want to know why support from some retailers for Scottish lamb isn’t stronger and will be looking for some significant improvement in the coming days.

“Given the difficult start to the season, we need a higher level of commitment from some supermarkets to home-produced product to send out a positive message. That will generate the confidence and stability needed on sheep farms and help ensure that lambs continue to be brought forward to the marketplace in an orderly manner and in prime condition.

"We still firmly believe that a co-ordinated approach from farm to processor to shop shelf to consumer this lamb season still has the potential to reward all concerned but the work at the retailer end must start now.”

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