Even as my sheep graze on the North Yorkshire moors, I can’t help but think about the huge challenges the red meat sector is facing. Like every other farmer across the country, my farm hasn’t escaped the crippling costs of feed, fertiliser and fuel, and I am acutely aware of what that might mean for the public as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.
I can’t remember a time when we were fighting so many battles on so many fronts.
Battling rising costs of production
While the liveweight lamb price is currently 50p above the five-year average, any margin this might have previously given us is being totally eclipsed by the rate at which our costs of production are rising. Defra stats to May 2022 show an overall increase in total input costs of 29% compared with a year earlier. Coupled with the seasonal decline in price since mid-June, the lamb price is under significant pressure.
The drought has also added to this and has slowed the volumes of lambs coming forward. The concern here is that we could see an influx of animals coming forward later in the year, potentially putting even more pressure on price.
Urging retailers to champion British lamb
Given the current economic situation, AHDB's Love Lamb Week has never been more needed than it is right now.
This week is a great opportunity to show consumers that British lamb, with its quality, unique taste and sustainable production here in the UK, is worth the investment.
Retailers and food service businesses have a huge part to play in the promotion of home-grown lamb. That’s why we’re urging retailers to honour their sourcing commitments, champion British lamb produced to world-leading standards and support their suppliers.
Levy payer investment in targeted campaigns such as Love Lamb Week and the wider Eat Balanced campaign are vitally important for the whole supply chain, from farm businesses and processors to retailers and food service, to help promote the benefits of eating red meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Farmers must play their part
And just as the supply chain, retailers and food service must play their part, we too must do what we can to keep the market operating as smoothly as possible.
Crucially, we must maintain the quality of the product. The whole point of Love Lamb Week is to promote a delicious, versatile, climate-friendly product, so even as pressure mounts with lack of grazing and forage, we must do what we can to hit market specifications and wherever possible avoid sending under-finished lambs.
I’d also urge farmers to factor in the physical availability of inputs such as fertiliser into farm business plans for the future, alongside costs.
NFU livestock production intentions survey
I believe we have a bright future supplying quality lamb to both domestic and international customers, but farmers need confidence in the sector.
We will soon be launching an intentions survey to determine what plans livestock farmers are making for the coming year and I urge as many people as possible to take part. The more we understand the intentions of the sector and where confidence is at, the better we can inform the supply chain and policy-makers and ensure they make decisions that back British lamb.
AHDB's Love Lamb Week runs from 1-7 September 2022. To get involved, visit: AHDB | Love Lamb Week 2022