A survey carried out by the NFU has shown that half of the fresh lamb being sold in some supermarkets comes from New Zealand rather than the UK.

The union asked members to look at the shelves of 22 stores across the country and found that in 14 of them 50-100% of the lamb on sale was imported.

The supermarkets that were stocking the most UK lamb were Booths, Budgens and Morrisons.

Peter King, NFU livestock adviser, said customers wanted local, fresh, extensively-produced food, yet large quantities of imported lamb was sitting on supermarket shelves.

“It looks as if buyers have gone abroad to buy the produce and are using domestically produced lamb to top up. But it should be the other way around.”

Delegation

Mr King said a delegation from Meat and Wool New Zealand were coming over to talk to retailers next week and number of importers had also been invited.

“But before supermarkets make their plans for 2008 they must sit down and talk about the situation with the NFU,” he said. “The bosses are talking the talk, but at a buyer level they are not walking the walk.”

The NFU is continuing to push the message that retailers need to support English and Welsh lamb producers or they risk losing them.

Livestock board chairman, Thomas Binns, said: “Farmers here are furious because the rise in New Zealand lamb in UK supermarkets during March left our domestic markets completely deflated.

“Retailers are clearly turning their backs on home-reared lamb in favour of cheaper imports. But what they fail to see is that unless they start working with UK farmers very soon, they won’t have fresh, local lamb to sell to their customers.”

The NFU estimates that supplies of New Zealand lamb were up 10% during March compared with the same time last year.