South West farmers face financial crisis

South West farming leaders and food organisations have held an emergency meeting to help find solutions for struggling livestock producers in the region.

The National Farmers' Union, Country Land & Business Association, South West Food & Drink, Taste of the West, Meat South West, Organic South West, National Beef Association and National Sheep Association came together to discuss the financial crisis affecting all sectors of the industry.

South West farmers are facing serious financial difficulties this autumn as a result of the FMD movement ban, bluetongue outbreaks and TB restrictions in the South West.

The export ban in particular has caused problems for farmers in the region, who have been left with thousands of tonnes of fresh lamb that they cannot export. As a result of the abundance of lamb on the British market, farmgate prices have fallen by 30%.

Although meat exports are due to resume on October 12 they will not apply to four of the six counties in the South West region.

Melanie Hall, The NFU's South West regional director, said: "The majority of South West lambs would have been exported to France and the southern Mediterranean countries.

"But these markets are completely closed creating massive problems for the industry with an oversupply in the UK market and prices in freefall."

Farming leaders are urging the major retailers, independent butchers, hotels, pubs and restaurants in the region to source more South West lamb and inform customers about the benefits of buying locally sourced meat and produce.

"Just this week Tesco's largest Cornish store in Truro had New Zealand lamb on special offer in a prominent position, while the British lamb was virtually anonymous in the middle of the meat aisle, with no shelf promotion or branding," said Helen Ashcroft, Manager Meat South West.

"This highlights the very need to 'shout out' about the quality lamb and meat available on our own doorstep.

"We must change the way big retailers source food in order to preserve the countryside and the livelihood of all those involved in the farming industry, from the producer to the processor and right through the supply chain."