West Country lamb producers will have access to new export and domestic markets following the loss of Lloyd Maunder’s operations on 24 February.

Somerset-based Southern Counties Fresh Foods has secured retail and export outlets for an extra 4000 lambs a week, and hopes to see that increase to 9000 lambs shortly.

Managing director Richard Phelps said: “Currently, that is about half domestic and half export, but the extra volume will be export-based.”

Lloyd Maunder was processing 10,000 lambs a week.

SCFF has also employed three new members of staff from Lloyd Maunder to ensure continuity of service for new suppliers.

It has also taken on Somerfield’s So Good West Country lamb contract, formerly supplied by Lloyd Maunder.

Anthony Gibson, south-west director of the NFU, said the extra business was extremely good news for sheep farmers.

“In this region we have become far too dependent on Tesco, and anything which can diversify our customer base is very beneficial.”

The export trade was particularly encouraging, he said.

“In the past that trade has kept the supermarkets honest.

But that doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment, to the extent that prices are about 20% below where they should be.”