11 February 2000

FUWfury over forces lamb

THE Farmers Union of Wales is demanding an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Defence after he revealed that 98% of the lamb fed to British forces was not reared in Britain.

The union is furious about the revelation that over the last two years only 2% of the lamb bought was produced on UK farms. The figure emerged in a written reply from former junior Defence Minister, Peter Kilfoyle, to a question from Plaid Cymru MP Dafydd Wigley.

It said that, while all the beef and pork and 50% of the bacon and gammon eaten by UK based service personnel was home produced, the MoDs contractor was "unable to identify competitively priced sources of British lamb".

A spokesman for 3663, the company contracted to buy all the MoDs food, which formally traded as Booker Foodservice, said it had worked tirelessly with farmers groups, especially in Wales, to increase the share of British lamb going to the armed forces.

"We have given a commitment to Welsh farmers that if they come up with the right product at the right price we would buy a years supply," insisted director of supply Graham Pritchard.

The problem was that the British industry was not geared up to supply the frozen lamb joints required, so 81% of the lamb required came from New Zealand and Australia and 17% from Uruguay.

FUW spokesman Alan Morris responded that talks had been held with the MoD supplier on several occasions over the last year and farmers believed that this had resulted in more British lamb being sourced.

"We are bitterly disappointed that so little home produced lamb is being used despite the dramatic fall in prices over the last two years," said Mr Morris. "The MoDs attitude flies in the face of the Prime Ministers claim last week that the government is doing everything possible to help our crisis hit farmers, and is another savage blow to producers dwindling morale."