15 August 2001
Desperate store pleads for lambs

By Donald MacPhail

A SUPERMARKET chain is calling for farmers with lambs to sell to get in touch as it is struggling to meet consumer demand.

Somerfield issued this plea after suppliers said they could not meet expected demand from a half-price promotion which begins on Wednesday (15 August).

This is despite predictions of 1.5 million surplus lambs in the UK this autumn after foot-and-mouth restrictions led to the collapse of export markets.

Somerfield says lamb sales have risen 40% following recent promotions, and the store believes its two-week Megadeals offer could see sales jump 50-fold.

A Somerfield spokesman said: “For some reason there seems to be a hold-up in the system and were crying out for lamb.

“We would encourage farmers with stock to contact us directly and we can put them in touch with suppliers.”

The spokesman estimated that 29,000 cases of lamb legs are needed each week to meet demand for the Megadeals promotion.

Meat and Livestock Commission senior economic analyst Jane Connor said the effects of foot-and-mouth had helped create a shortage in a quiet month.

Some producers are unsure about current sales procedures, while other are dissuaded by increased biosecurity costs involved in selling animals, she said.

Producers may be waiting until they had enough stock to sell in one lot to make the costs worthwhile, said Ms Connor.

Low prices in mid- and late July also persuaded farmers to hold back, and some are waiting to see if things generally improve and marts re-open, she added.

Ironically, efforts by supermarkets to promote British lamb during the foot-and-mouth crisis have also contributed to current shortages, said Ms Connor.

“While these initiatives have been very welcome, they have meant that a lot of people have been chasing after lamb.”

On top of these exception factors, mixed farmers are often more concerned with harvesting at this time of year and hold back stock until this is finished.

“The lambs are there and we would expect that supplies will pick up by the end of August,” said Ms Connor.

The Somerfield spokesman said the store would pay the market price for lamb, which is currently about 165p/kg deadweight.

Farmers with available lamb can contact Somerfield on freephone 0500 691913.

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