Lamb’s place as a traditional Easter meat has led to produce being used a pawn in a price battle among major UK retailers over the past fortnight.
This was the suggestion from NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe, as he aired concerns about New Zealand imports on UK retail shelves in the run-up to Easter.
He claimed New Zealand lamb was being discounted to bring footfall to retailers in the run-up to the holiday. He added there was currently a limited offering of UK produce.
“There has been a massive price war in the past week or fortnight [with supermarkets advertising their lamb offers] in the national press,” Mr Sercombe said, claiming the major retailers must be using lamb as a loss leader.
“[NFU members] are going into the big supermarkets and there are shelves full of New Zealand produce heavily discounted.”
However Mr Sercombe praised Aldi, which has continued its commitment to 100 per cent British lamb throughout the Easter period. He said Aldi offered 100 per cent British beef and lamb all year round.
Aldi claimed it was able to undercut many of its retail opponents which were offering promotions on New Zealand imports.
Booths also signalled its commitment to exclusively sell lamb reared in the UK throughout the year.
Mr Sercombe said he believed shoppers would pay a premium for British produce. Discussing the volume of New Zealand imports during the Easter period, he said he was concerned farmers would be reluctant to produce early lambs for the Easter trade.
Responding to Farmers Guardian’s enquiry to the UK’s major retailers about their sourcing policy this Easter, Asda said it needed to stock from elsewhere to ensure availability.
A spokesman said: “At Asda we are committed to sourcing British products first.
“As Easter has come early this year it has been difficult to source lamb at this time in the UK.”
Sainsbury’s said it sourced British lamb when available but each season was different and it adjusted its sourcing patterns accordingly. Morrisons claimed one of its 25 lines of lamb was imported this season.
Tesco has previously stated it sourced from both the UK and New Zealand to ensure customers had a consistently high quality of lamb available.
Lidl claimed it sourced British and New Zealand lamb in UK stores. But the discounter claimed it had made a commitment to source all fresh listed lamb from British farmers from July until the end of the year.
Jean-Pierre Garnier, export manager for AHDB Beef and Lamb, pointed to Poland’s increasingly affluent population and limited production. He said the UK was well placed to meet this demand.
“We believe Poland has the potential, in time, to become a major market for us. It has a large population with fast-growing incomes, a burgeoning food service sector and limited domestic lamb production,” he said.