NFU President, Meurig Raymond, has strongly criticised Tesco’s decision to heavily promote New Zealand lamb in the middle of the prime season for British lamb, given previous commitments that they have made.
The NFU wrote to all supermarkets last week to highlight that British grass-fed, spring-born lamb is now in peak season while southern hemisphere lamb, born around a year ago, is currently at the end of its season.
Mr Raymond said: “Tesco stated yesterday that ‘With the large demand for lamb we cannot always guarantee consistent UK stock’. I find this comment almost as ridiculous as last September’s statement from Tesco that British lamb was “not in season at the moment in the UK”. I am angry and disappointed that this comes only 18 months after giving such positive undertakings on its sourcing and supply chains for red meat.
“The figures speak for themselves. The UK was self-sufficient in lamb last year and lamb numbers are even higher this year. We have more than enough lamb available.
“I believe that promoting New Zealand lamb over British, and Tesco’s attempts to justify this, misleads consumers about the seasonality of lamb and sends a signal to farmers that Tesco are not prepared to promote the benefits of food produced in the UK. Why promote end of season product, which many view as inferior, over Red Tractor assured, fresh lamb produced in the fields, valleys and hills of England and Wales?
“By these actions Tesco is failing to live up to the commitments made by Philip Clarke at the NFU Conference last year that Tesco should be the best supporter of British farmers and that it wished to shorten the supply chain.
“Consumers want to buy our great British product and know when it is in peak season so it is vitally important at this time of year to give clearly-labelled, home-grown lamb pride of place, when there is a good, affordable and fresh supply on our doorstep. A YouGov survey commissioned by the NFU after the horsemeat scandal showed that 79 per cent of British people thought that British supermarkets should sell more food produced on British farms.
“This month’s independent Beef & Lamb Watch results will highlight those retailers who aren’t backing British farming and living up to commitments made and we will continue to meet the retailers and meat processors on a regular basis to remind them of their previous commitments on sourcing.”