BRITISH farmers are losing an average of £29 on every lamb they sell, according to new figures.
Farmgate prices for lambs have dipped by around a fifth in the last 12 months to their lowest in three years, the NFU said. That comes despite an increase in the cost of lamb on the supermarket shelves. Last year’s terrible weather and the impact of birth defect disease Schmallenberg both played a part in reducing prices.
The NFU is calling for retailers and shoppers to support British lamb producers.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “Farmers are working hard to stay on top of a really tough situation but we are now faced with really challenging conditions on the world market while seeing a considerable reduction in the price that our own retailers pay.
“This isn’t helped by more imported cheaper lamb products on supermarket shelves. What puzzles me is that prices to consumers have remained high. Demand from consumers has also remained strong, so what’s happening; where is the money going?
“I want to see a thriving British lamb sector, crucial if we are to attract young people to work in our industry, so retailers have to start working more closely with their British lamb supply base to help meet some of the challenges being faced. And we need our customers – the consumer – to reap some of the benefit too.”
He said the situation should be taken into account by politicians working to agree the Common Agricultural Policy package over the next few months, and urged them to agree to a fair deal to support British farmers.
Mr Sercombe said: “As CAP reform discussions continue we cannot ignore the fact that many sheep farmers are struggling to make ends meet in this new market-driven environment.
“Direct payments to farmers are currently a vital lifeline; the only way we can ride-out the volatility of world markets. If this goes, many sheep farmers and their families face a very uncertain future indeed.”
Lamb prices and forecasts for beef production will come under the spotlight next month.
The 2013 Outlook Conference, organised by Eblex, Bpex and DairyCo, takes place in London on February 13.
It will feature presentations on global economic trends, price volatility and outlook for feed prices, with speakers including HSBC’s head of economics, Mark Berrisford-Smith. Eblex chairman John Cross will introduce the cattle and sheep breakout session, including a presentation by Eblex export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier on developments and opportunities for beef and lamb in the global market.