Fears of a collapse in lamb prices are growing in Scotland as producers north of the border report being offered prices of as low as 200p/kg this week, down from up to 258p/kg before the Foot and Mouth outbreak.
Scottish farmers’ leaders are talking urgently with retailers on the need for them to stand by sheep producers during the current, exceptional circumstances.
NFU Scotland is concerned that some prices its members have been quoted will put them under intolerable pressure, believing they are an over-reaction to the impact of the export ban introduced in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak The financial impact of FMD restrictions includes the loss of income from skins which would normally be exported and the extra disposal cost for abattoir waste which must now go to landfill.
A case is now being put to the major supermarkets – which take 60% of lamb – to ensure they take account of additional costs.
NFUS vice president, Nigel Miller, said the major supermarkets have frequently stated their support for Scottish agriculture and now they have a chance to demonstrate it. “The Scottish sheep sector was already under extreme pressure from low prices and rising costs, even before the foot and mouth outbreak barred us from key export markets.
“I will be speaking to all the major retailers to stress that additional costs must be absorbed by them. Far too often, additional costs are passed back to the farmgate. It is vital that both processors and producers make it clear to our biggest customers that we simply can’t afford that to happen now.”
Quality Meat Scotland has announced it will use funds held in reserve in a marketing burst to help the sheep sector secure a bigger hold of the domestic market. Around a quarter of all Scottish sheep meat is exported and the trade is worth £18 million annually. The ban on exports comes at a time when the vast majority of Scotland’s lamb crop is heading for the food chain.
For more on foot and mouth, see our special report
Words by Carol McLaren