Consumer demand key to securing lamb price lift

With Scottish farmers receiving their lowest lamb price for five years, NFU Scotland is urging all supermarkets to make the switch to Scotch.

The Union’s latest ScotchWatch investigation of supermarket shelves, looking at the space being given to Scotch lamb by retailers, has seen tremendous support from Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi. Other retailers, such as Asda, Marks & Spencer and Tesco are shifting quickly away from New Zealand imports to home produced product. Regrettably, imports still dominated the shelves at Sainsburys and the Co-op but the Union understands changes are scheduled.

For a retailer like Waitrose, where the offering is exclusively British or Welsh, the Union would like to see Scottish consumers given the choice of buying clearly identified Scotch lamb.

With sheep farmers currently receiving £20 per head less for their lambs compared to last year – and prices for live lambs down by 20 to 25p per kilo in the past few weeks > the Union is calling on all supermarkets to switch to Scotch or British lamb immediately. There can be no excuses as supplies are now plentiful with Scottish lambs coming to market in greater numbers each week, as we head towards the traditional peak in August. The need for a speedy switch to home produced lamb – and the scope to extend the season – was made direct to all retailers in meetings held at the recent Highland Show.

Growing consumption and the demand for Scotch remains key to turning the price around. Ahead of the Scotch lamb marketing campaign later this year, the Union’s members will once again be rolling up their sleeves to promote lamb to the public.

In a repeat of last year’s events, samples of tasty Scotch lamb will be served up in supermarkets, high streets, restaurants and at other major events.

NFU Scotland’s Livestock Committee Chairman Charlie Adam said: “Scottish consumers want Scottish lamb. If Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons can deliver on that commitment then all retailers can. There are no excuses. Other retailers are already making that change. Sainsburys have today indicated that it is now sourcing exclusively from the UK and any New Zealand product on shelves will be used up and not replaced. That just leaves the Co-op and we hope to hear about its plans to commit to Scottish or UK product in due course.

“That switch to Scotch must also help build demand and that manifests itself as higher prices at the farmgate for our sheep farmers.

“Longer term, we accept that for some retailers, New Zealand imports have been a traditional part of their lamb offering at certain times of the year for more than a century. However, the opportunity clearly exists for these retailers to extend their buying season for British and Scotch. To deliver real change for our sheep sector we are asking retailers to buy Scotch two weeks later in the winter and for them to come into the home lamb market two weeks earlier in the spring.

“When you consider the spread of dates between Cornwall and Shetland when lambing takes place there is no reason for supermarkets to insist on filling shelves with New Zealand or Australian product for so many months each year.

“In terms of driving sales and demand, Scottish sheep farmers will once again take matters into their own hands by once again getting out and about and speaking to consumers. The lamb tasting events staged by farmers last year built on QMS’s annual Scotch lamb promotion campaign and boosted sales by 11% in that period.

“No-one else can speak with as much passion and authenticity about the quality and taste of Scotch lamb than the person who has spent seven days a week in all weathers to produce it. Part of that message is that lamb is a healthy meat. To push that forward, I will be meeting Scottish Government shortly to find out how we get more lamb onto the menu in schools.”

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