South Lakes-based sheep industry leader calls for action over UK food security

The Westmorland Gazette: John Geldard John Geldard

A SOUTH Lakes-based sheep industry leader has warned the Government it needs to act urgently to ensure UK food security.

John Geldard, chairman of the National Sheep Association (NSA), spoke out as it emerged that the 2013 New Zealand lamb crop is the second smallest in almost 60 years, with 1.3million (4.7per cent) fewer lambs in the system than 2012.

This comes at a time when New Zealand is beginning to prioritise emerging export markets, such as China, over more traditional export markets in Europe, meaning it will become increasingly difficult for UK supermarkets to undercut domestically-produced lamb with cheap New Zealand cuts.

Mr Geldard said: “This is a symptom of a wider problem. Ministers should take notice of their own chief scientist who has warned over the last decade about food security on a global basis.

“Ministers should make sure we maximise production from the hills and uplands, while also working in the best interests of the environment.

“Some of the environmental policies of recent years have seen sheep taken off the fells, and now it is time to put the stock back to help tackle the food security issue.”

Meanwhile, NSA chief executive Phil Stocker warned supermarkets to expect increasing volatility in lamb supplies in the coming years due to changing weather patterns impacting global supply - as seen this year in New Zealand - while international demand for lamb is increasing.

He said: “The answer is greater connection between our UK producers and the domestic market, which can only be achieved by supermarkets paying more consistent prices, and ensuring they stock UK lamb throughout the year.

“The practice of turning away from UK lamb in the new year, due to an assumption that it suddenly becomes ‘old season’, or ‘hogget’, cannot be justified.

“Lambs are regularly born from January through to May, so to say they all become old season after one date is simply not right.

“With our major supermarkets talking publicly about shortening supply chains and supporting UK producers, in the interest of the entire supply chain including consumers, this wake-up call from New Zealand might finally result in some action.”

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