EXPORT markets for lamb should be developed to increase competition among buyers and improve prices, according to the veteran South Lakeland sheep farmer Gordon Capstick.

Selling more lamb abroad would put pressure on supermarkets in Britain to pay more if they want to buy home-produced meat, said Mr Capstick, who runs Parkhouse Farm, Heversham.

He spoke out after the National Farmers’ Union revealed farmers are losing an average of £29 for every lamb sold.

Mr Capstick said: “The fact is we need to improve the export market for lamb. Just having a home market and nowhere else to sell is hammering us to death.

“Increasing exports puts other buyers into the market, creating competition for the supermarket buyers.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron pointed out that the farmgate lamb price had fallen by 22 per cent, despite the price of the meat on the supermarket shelves ‘remaining static’.

“The NFU research shows the power of the supermarkets,” he said.

“They are using their power to squeeze farmers, short change customers and boost their profits.

“We need to make sure the forthcoming supermarket regulator has real teeth so it can act against practices like this. The sooner the regulator is up and running, the better it will be for both farmers and consumers.”

The NFU said lamb prices were at their lowest for three years – a situation made worse by rising production costs caused by the extreme weather in 2012.

The farm price lost 10 per cent of its value in the last quarter of the year alone.

Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, 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 increased. Demand from consumers has also remained strong, so what’s happening, where is the money going?”