Farming community ‘frustrated’ over Morrisons move towards New Zealand lamb

The British farming community has criticised Morrisons for dropping its pledge to source only British lamb. 

The British farming community has been criticising Morrisons' recent announcement of dropping its pledge to source only British lamb. 
Photo by Morrisons

Morrisons first launched the commitment in 2017 and has long been known as a supporter of British produce. 

The retailer has now taken on a new trial, which will see New Zealand lamb hitting shelves in 39 stores. 

A Morrisons spokesperson said that customers have been seeking cheaper lamb, and this could be sourced more easily from New Zealand. 

They added: “The blunt commercial reality is that New Zealand lamb is cheaper to source, and therefore cheaper to sell, than British lamb. 

“We will remain 100% British lamb on all our butchers’ counters, and the New Zealand lamb will of course be clearly labelled so customers in these trial stores will see the difference and can make a choice.” 

Quite unbelievable timing

The National Sheep Association (NSA) said it is “dismayed and frustrated” following the announcement.

With Morrisons previously being known for its support for British agriculture, NSA said that the move is “hugely disappointing” and goes against all the principles on which the supermarket has built its reputation amongst the farming community. 

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker added: “We learnt of this disappointing news whilst returning from the Field to Fork Summit with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street.  

“An event that was designed to show support for UK agriculture and where the supermarket itself had a presence promoting its commitment to British farmers. So, the timing of this announcement is really quite unbelievable. 

“This is a very poor decision, and something NSA warned could happen during the negotiations around the new trade deals agreed with Australia and New Zealand last year.” 

UK sheep farmers have been receiving strong prices for their produce over the recent months, Mr Stocker continued.

“However, if we want high standards in the UK then these are realistic prices that are needed for farmers to produce lamb sustainably and at a price that can allow much needed reinvestment into their farms. 
“And not forgetting the UK sheep sector has endured a very difficult winter and early spring with seriously challenging weather conditions, Schmallenberg virus causing losses on many farms, plus the threat of bluetongue virus arriving from Europe this summer.  

“All these things are causing a level of uncertainty amongst many farmers. The last thing UK producers now need is for their prices to be undermined by cheaper imports,” he added. 

Need for explanation

NFU Scotland vice president and a beef and sheep farmer from Aberdeenshire, Andrew Connon, also criticised the timing of the news, as it comes at a time when “volumes of fresh, tasty new season lamb are growing week by week, produced to the highest standards and to a quality that is second to none”. 

NFU Scotland vice president Andrew Connon

He added: “That long-running support for Scottish and UK agriculture across all product categories has been a central part of Morrisons reputation, branding and marketing.  

“Choosing to turn to New Zealand at this time, and paying scant regard to concerns over food miles, needs proper explanation to the industry, backed up by reassurances over the volumes of Scottish and British lamb that the retailer still intends to purchase in the future.  

“Much of Morrisons’ reputation is built around its relationship and engagement with the farming industry. We need Morrisons to come to the table to discuss this move around lamb sourcing with those most affected.” 

At the end of last year, Morrisons became the first UK supermarket to introduce a ‘Buy British’ section in its online store, aiming to encourage shoppers to “back farmers and British produce”.

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