Farmer anger at rise in New Zealand lamb imports

Farmers’ frustration at high supplies of New Zealand lamb on supermarket shelves is rising, as sheep prices remain low.

Latest trade figures this week showed mutton and lamb imports totalled 15,200t in March – 35% higher than the same month in 2014.

Shipments from New Zealand, which represent the vast majority, were up more than 50%.

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Higher imports and reports of retailers still stocking plenty of southern hemisphere sheepmeat come as British lambs are quickly coming into the new season.

UK sheepmeat importsIn the week ending 19 May, new season SQQ lamb numbers – those between 25.5kg and 45.5kg – through marts jumped 63% to more than 44,000.

Old season SQQ numbers continued to trend down at 41,000.

Prices remained subdued, with the new season liveweight SQQ down by more than 50p/kg on the year at 200p/kg. The old season price was more than 40p/kg lower than in 2014 at 178p/kg.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said anger and frustration was growing among farmers. He said it was almost as if some stores were using New Zealand lamb as the core product and balancing with British.

“We have been awash with New Zealand lamb in the supermarkets and that has had a negative impact on the prices,” he said.

“It is short-termist and sending out all the wrong signals.

“There is plenty of supply of British – we have got livestock markets reporting quite large numbers of new season lambs coming on stream.”

Eblex has forecast New Zealand supplies to drop away sharply in the second quarter of the year.

Drought in most of the country meant animals were slaughtered early. December and January supplies were unusually high, before falling away in February and March.

New Zealand lamb exports were down 1% to 97,800t in the first three months of 2015. A 12% drop-off in exports to China was made up by a 10% rise to the EU. Exports to the UK were 11% higher on the year.