Work starts now for 2016 lamb crop, says NFU

Now is the time for retailers and processors to be clear about their commitment to, and requirements for next year’s British lamb crop, the NFU said today.

Following the NFU national livestock board meeting at Stoneleigh this week, chairman Charles Sercombe, said: “Like thousands of sheep farmers around the country, I will be putting the rams in for next year’s lamb crop now. This is far more of a gamble than it should be due to the lack of clarity around sourcing commitments from many in the domestic market.

“There are many influencing factors that are beyond the food chain’s control, such as exchange rate and weather conditions. The NFU has put considerable effort into understanding retailers and food service providers’ commitments. Some, such as Sainsbury’s and Brakes, have been helpful, but it is frustrating that, there is still uncertainty from others.

“No farmer expects the market to always go their way, or always be predictable. But in a world with increasing volatility and uncertainty I would hope that the food industry sees it has a responsibility to try to provide risk management for farmers as best they can, and enable producers to take decisions on when to lamb, whether to creep feed and what to target at market based on a solid knowledge of the sourcing decisions that have been taken for next season.

“This year has seen a market that failed to deliver for sheep farmers thanks to short-term behaviour that took advantage of the impact of a drought in the southern hemisphere. In the short term we have seen fewer lambs within the Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ), and real concerns from farmers about how they market their animals. This isn’t good for the industry, it isn’t good for the food chain and it certainly isn’t good for shoppers.

“Our message is clear – tell farmers now what you want for 2016, and we will deliver it; we cannot supply a market when we are forced to second guess the demand side of the equation.”

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