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Sainsbury's sheep salvation

SAINSBURY'S HAS answered sheep industry calls for an improved lamb price by lifting its farmgate rate to £3.80 per kilo – fully 60p above the current market.

JUSTIN KING Sainsbury's chief executive
JUSTIN KING Sainsbury's chief executive

Although this rise is only applicable to the 800 farmer members of the supermarket's own Lamb Development Group, industry leaders did not hesitate to commend Sainsbury's for this 'bold step' on behalf of UK sheep farmers.

On Friday, Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King made it clear that the above-market price was a deliberate response to the problems caused by adverse weather, which had left many farmers struggling to raise lambs to the ideal weight at the right time of the season.

The £3.80/kg rate will be funded by Sainsbury's, he said, and be paid to the SLDG – which supplies Sainsbury's own brand and Taste the Difference lamb ranges – until the end of February.

"We are passionate about sourcing British products and we are very proud of what has been achieved through our farming development groups over the last five years," said Mr King.

"Because of the close relationship we have built with our farmers we can react quickly to the volatile market conditions, which is why we have announced a new price for our lamb farmers today.

"We always maintain high social, ethical and environmental standards in everything we do – that includes investing in the farmers that we work with. Our customers also want to buy high quality, fresh British food which is why we have committed to double the amount of British food we sell by 2020," he added.

National Farmers Union Scotland president – and Borders livestock farmer – Nigel Miller said: "Sainsbury's should be commended for taking this bold step, which should start returning some confidence to our beleaguered sheep farmers. This will provide a real boost to the cash flow of farms whose finances are being relentlessly hit by the combination of poor weather, poor market returns and high input costs.

"And where Sainsbury's has gone, surely others should follow. This should be a wake-up call to all retailer buyers of Scotch Lamb of the imperative to support farmers as they enter the next production season," said Mr Miller.

"Shoppers frequently ask us what they can do to support Scottish farmers and tell us that they would be willing to pay more if need be. We know that many households are under financial strain at the moment, however, there is plenty in the current shelf price for customers to get a good deal on staple ingredients such as red meat, and for farmers to receive enough money to cover the costs of production.

"Our farmers should be encouraged by the fact that we shall continue to impress upon all retailers the need to pay them a price that covers their costs and allows them to reinvest in their businesses," he added. "Guaranteeing a secure future supply of iconic Scotch Lamb is to the benefit of consumers, retailers and farmers alike."

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