Availability of Scottish lamb down year-on-year

The blow for Scottish sheep producers at this crucial time in the season was the volumes of imported lamb still found on Tesco and Asda shelves.
The blow for Scottish sheep producers at this crucial time in the season was the volumes of imported lamb still found on Tesco and Asda shelves.

As Scotland’s lamb sales approach peak season, the latest shelf watch study undertaken by Union members and staff found that 11 percent of lamb available in Scottish supermarkets is imported – almost all of it found on Asda and Tesco shelves.

In stark contrast, the shelf watch study undertaken in August 2016 found only three percent of fresh lamb on Scottish supermarket shelves was imported at that time and 97 percent was clearly labelled as Scottish or British lamb.

In the past year, NFU Scotland has worked tirelessly with major retailers looking to increase the volumes of Scottish lamb on the shelves and this latest shelf watch has shown the success of that work. All lamb in Aldi and Lidl stores visited was clearly identified as Scottish. In Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsburys and the Co-op, all lamb was either British or Scottish.

However, the blow for Scottish sheep producers at this crucial time in the season was the volumes of imported lamb still found on Tesco and Asda shelves.

NFU Scotland’s Livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam said: “This is a bitter sweet survey at a crunch time for Scottish sheep producers. Next week sees 18,500 store lambs from hill farmers and crofters pass through the iconic sale rings at Lairg, providing a valuable barometer on the sheep sector's fortunes. At the same time, sales of prime Scottish lambs are building towards a peak.

“Next week also sees the annual Scotch Lamb promotional campaign start, with a month-long programme of activity to promote the quality and provenance of the Scottish product.

“As that campaign kicks off, the good news is that the support being shown to Scottish and British by Aldi, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Co-op, Sainsburys and Morrisons marks positive progress and a real success for the dialogue between NFU Scotland and retailers aimed at increasing the amount of Scottish Lamb on Scottish shelves.

“A lot of work has gone in from NFUS, not just encouraging all retailers to stock Scottish during peak season, but looking for those retailers who regularly import lamb at certain times of the year to extend the season for buying Scottish. That is clearly paying dividends.

“However, it is also abundantly clear from these results that further work is needed if we are to see Tesco and Asda fully back Scottish sheep farmers. High stocks of imported lamb remain on their shelves meaning that availability of Scottish and UK lamb is now significantly worse than it was at this time last year.

“The clear message for Asda and Tesco from this survey is that Scottish shoppers want to buy tasty Scotch lamb all-year-round. Scottish farmers and crofters deserve better treatment from these major players and the industry is committed to working with them to make that happen.”