Lamb sustainability threatened

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned that the widening gap between farmgate and retail prices for UK lamb is threatening the sustainability of the sector.

The NFU pointed out that while farmgate prices have dropped by nearly a quarter and wholesale prices for UK legs of lamb are down 17%, supermarket prices for UK product have only fallen by 2%.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said the current farmgate prices for UK lamb were “not viable” in the face of soaring farm costs.

“Many of our sheep farmers, particularly those in the uplands, have been experiencing a major downturn in lamb prices, which I fear will drive confidence out of the industry. I understand their frustrations at a time when they’re also dealing with rising input costs and poor weather,” he said.

“Consumers also want to see a competitively-priced UK product on the supermarket shelves. But the present situation is not sustainable. We have recently written to all major retailers, urging them to show long-term commitment to our livestock producers to ensure we have a sustainable supply of UK lamb, for the benefit of both farmers and consumers.

“Currently farmers are suffering, and consumers aren’t benefiting, so just who is reaping the rewards of the ‘Great Lamb Robbery’?”

A similar situation is occurring with New Zealand lamb, with wholesale prices down 23% year-on-year and retail prices only down 12% in the same period. The NFU said it would be meeting with officials from Beef and Lamb New Zealand this week to discuss global market conditions and understand the challenges faced by New Zealand farmers.