UK/Benacre: Farmers ‘are losing £29 on every lamb they sell’

Benacre sheep farmer Tim Crick with his flock of sheep and their lambs

Benacre sheep farmer Tim Crick with his flock of sheep and their lambs - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

With lamb prices at their lowest for three years the situation for farmers has been made worse by rising production costs due to the extreme weather in 2012. Impacts from the new lamb-deforming disease Schmallenberg are also being felt with the spring lamb season about to get under way.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is calling for retailers to demonstrate genuine commitment to their British suppliers and customers after a 22 % fall in the farmgate lamb price despite an increase in price on the supermarket shelves.

Tim Crick, who farms at Benacre, near Kessingland, will be selling up to 3,000 lambs over the next two or three months and if prices stay as they are, could see the amount he will get for them fall by nearly £90,000 compared to last year.

“It’s marginal anyway as it is,” he said. “It’s very serious if prices stay the way they are. When and if the euro rallies, who knows, hopefully that will help the situation. It’s one of the crucial factors. Otherwise, we are relying much more heavily on the home market and obviously need more support from the supermarkets.”

He added: “If it remains as it is, we will be losing money on every lamb we sell. That’s for sure.”

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.

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“And we need our customers - the consumer - to reap some of the benefit too.”

With the EU promising to agree a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform package in the coming months the NFU also stressed the importance of ensuing a fair deal to support English farmers. Figures show the farm price lost 10 % of its value in the last quarter.

“As CAP reform discussions continue we cannot ignore the fact that many sheep farmers are currently struggling to make ends meet in this new market-driven environment,” said Mr Sercombe. “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.”