Farmers have found it difficult to find a market for new season lamb, with customers overseas less willing to pay for a product that is more expensive because of the pound’s strength against a weak euro.
The situation is having the same effect on the home market, Mr Raymond, president of the National Farmers’ Union said, with imports seen as cheaper to source than British lamb.
But while some major retailers were praised by Mr Raymond on the first day of the Great Yorkshire Show - namely Morrisons and Aldi for their policy to source 100 per cent British lamb - Tesco came in for criticism.
Promises the chain made to the NFU at its annual conference two years ago to source more British produce were not being realised when it came to red meat, Mr Raymond said.
“We have other major retailers who are very promiscuous with their purchasing and at this time of the year they are importing product while there is an ample supply of good quality British lamb available,” he said.
“Walk into any Tesco store today and there is more imported lamb on their shelves than there is British. My message to Tesco is, prove to us you are going to carry out those commitments that you made two years ago.”
The Yorkshire Post asked Tesco to respond to that criticism, and a spokesperson for the retailer said in a statement that it sources New Zealand lamb in response to public demand.
‘To ensure our customers have consistently high quality lamb available all year round we source from both the UK and New Zealand,” the spokesperson said.
“We recognise the quality of British lamb and are proud to be the biggest buyer of it.
“New Zealand lamb is also recognised by customers as a great quality product and is consistently good value throughout the year. This helps us to keep lamb affordable for our customers and meet the demand for popular cuts.”
Tesco said that all the lamb on its fresh meat was British and that it used the likes of New Season West Country PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) lamb in its ‘finest’ range.
The retailer also said customers could choose to buy British lamb as it is labelled with the country of origin.
Imports made lamb more affordable to the public, Tesco said.
“Lamb is considerably more expensive in comparison to some of our other proteins and sourcing from New Zealand gives us the opportunity to sell lamb more affordably to our customers and meet the demand for popular cuts.”
Since January, a ‘Tesco Sustainable Lamb Group’ has been established. The group is a committee of British farmers that represent the retailer’s supply chain, who aim is to “share best practice and innovate to help improve efficiency and consistency of livestock on farms to provide the best quality product”.