Industry chiefs have welcomed significant strides by Sainsbury’s to support struggling sheep farmers by extending its British sourcing season for lamb.
The retailer will extend its season until January next year to make the most of high supplies of British stock and support the UK lamb sector. The commitment means a greater proportion of British lamb will be in stock in winter.
It comes just a week after Tesco came under fire when figures revealed its British lamb sourcing policy fell drastically through August.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “It is pleasing to see Sainsbury’s has responded to the strong lamb supply situation and is looking to extend its British commitment.
“There is a plentiful supply of British lamb and the quality is excellent. This proactive announcement is a welcome vote of confidence to sheep farmers in a difficult year.”
British lamb prices have been volatile over the past year, remaining below their lowest point of 2014 for much of the past three months.
Plentiful supplies have been hit by a weak export trade and slow domestic demand.
Liveweight prices have been volatile in recent weeks and some auctioneers told Farmers Guardian market prices were up sharply in recent days, following a 10p/kg fall last week (See page 10 for more on this).
The news came as Tesco announced a 55 per cent decline in profits for the first half of the financial year on Wednesday.
In the 26 weeks to August 29, underlying profits were £354 million. The retailer’s like-for-like sales increased over the period.
Tesco’s commitment to British lamb came under fire last week as AHDB Beef and Lamb revealed the retailer’s facings of British lamb dropped to 58 per cent in August, down 15 per cent on the same time last year.
Sainsbury’s stocked 98 per cent in August, compared to 54 per cent in June, while Asda showed 74 per cent British facings and Lidl had 72 per cent.
Joanne Briggs, National Sheep Association (NSA) communications manager, said: “NSA sees no reason why retailers cannot be offering 100 per cent British lamb at this time of year.
“All retailers need to support UK producers in order to protect and build their domestic supply chain.”