The National Farmers' Union has said it will 'do all it can' to help sheep farmers in the UK who are struggling with a collapse in the farmgate price of lamb and other farm costs.
Tensions are high among livestock farmers over the gulf between farmgate prices and the price on the supermarket shelves.
While farmgate prices have dropped by nearly a quarter and wholesale prices for UK legs of lamb are down 17 per cent, prices in the shops for UK product have only fallen by two per cent in the same time period.
Lamb prices are at their lowest in three years due to a poor summer, rising production costs and a longer finishing period.
Impacts from the new lamb-deforming disease Schmallenberg are also being felt with the spring lamb season about to get underway.
And the issue isn’t confined to UK lamb.
Figures show the wholesale price of New Zealand lamb has dropped 23 per cent (year on year), and yet the retail price for consumers has only come down 12 per cent in the same period.
With latest figures for November showing the highest level of imports since 2006, the NFU will this week be meeting with officials from Beef and Lamb New Zealand, which is the largest sheepmeat importing country to the UK, to discuss global market conditions and understand the issues for New Zealand farmers.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe has highlighted that the farmgate price for UK lamb is not viable in a period where sheep farmers have seen their costs rising.
He is also concerned that the price of UK product on the shelves hasn’t fallen by anywhere near the same amount as the farm gate price.
"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," said Sercombe.
"I understand their frustrations at a time when they’re also dealing with rising input costs and poor weather."
"Consumers also want to see 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 benefitting, so just who is reaping the rewards of the ‘Great Lamb Robbery’?"