Lamb industry experts say retailers must build stronger relationships with domestic suppliers because relying on the meat being imported from New Zealand is no longer sustainable.
New Zealand lamb currently accounts for around a fifth of the meat in the UK market but figures released this week show that the country’s latest lamb crop is the second smallest in nearly 60 years.
There are 1.3 million fewer lambs in the system than last year, a drop of 4.7 per cent, the National Sheep Association (NSA) reports. It said a major expansion in the country’s dairy operations, as well as a recent severe drought, are in part to blame for the decline at a time when the country is beginning to prioritise emerging export markets, such as China.
Under these circumstances, it will be increasingly tough for UK supermarkets to undercut domestically produced lamb with cheap New Zealand cuts, the association said.
Chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The answer is greater connection between our UK producers and the domestic market, which can only be achieved by supermarkets paying more consistent prices and ensuring they stock UK lamb throughout the year.”