AGRICULTURE LEADERS have held talks with the country’s largest retailer, Tesco, amid concerns over the promotion of British meat and the prices paid to farmers.
The supermarket chain has been consulting closely with its suppliers over recent months, a Tesco spokesman said, and this latest round of talks was part of that process.
British lamb sourcing and longer term, more stable relationships with suppliers were among the key issues discussed when representatives of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) met with some of the supermarket’s key figures in London.
Around the table for the discussions, which included the retailer’s progress and future plans for agriculture, were NFU president Meurig Raymond and NFU Cymru president Stephen James, together with Jason Tarry, Tesco’s chief product officer and the company’s director of agriculture, Tom Hind.
The NFU said it used the meeting to emphasise the pressure that many of its 55,000 members in different sectors are feeling but particularly within dairy, beef and lamb.
The Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG) was highlighted as an effective model, with Tesco indicating its desire to maintain a strong, direct link with dairy farmers through the group, the NFU reported after the meeting.
The union said that it would like to see the principles of the TSDG extended. It also called for Tesco to give producers greater confidence and clearer market indicators.
Mr Tarry, who has recently taken on the position of chief product officer, said that Tesco as a whole is “keen to build stronger, more integrated partnerships with producers suppliers”.
He also reaffirmed Tesco’s commitment to British agriculture and, although it has recently been confirmed that Tom Hind is shortly stepping down from his role as agriculture director at the supermarket chain, a replacement will be made to lead Tesco’s agriculture team.
With farmers feeling the pinch from price cuts for milk, beef and lamb, the NFU wants better promotion of British produce by retailers and Tesco offered some assurances over British lamb which is now in season.
Traditionally, British lamb vies against New Zealand lamb on the supermarket shelves but a Tesco spokesman told The Yorkshire Post that there would be “more prominence” given to British lamb on the supermarket’s shelves in the coming weeks as new season lamb goes on sale.
Earlier this month, the NFU’s Mr Raymond described the early season lamb prices as “extremely worrying”.
He said: “All eyes will be on retailers to see if they will give our great British lamb pride of place on their shelves.”
Steve Dunkley, senior regional manager at Eblex, the lamb levy payers’ organisation, said he expected prices to pick up and backed British lamb to perform better at the end of spring.
“We are seeing more New Zealand lamb coming in because they have been having a drought, so they are killing their lambs sooner and some of that is ending up over here.
“The positive thing about that is that they are sending their lamb now so there will be less about later in the year which should be good come the next spike in British production in June and July.”