13 Nov 2014

Farmer complaints 'not aimed at NZ'

3:23 pm on 13 November 2014

Beef + Lamb New Zealand's chairman doesn't think British farmers' gripes about having to compete with New Zealand lamb will disappear.

lamb rack

Farmers are angry UK supermarkets promote New Zealand lamb at the height of their selling season. Photo: PHOTO NZ

However, James Parsons has returned from meetings with European Union farming leaders convinced that there was more to gain from co-operation than competition in those markets.

British farmers have protested again this year over supermarkets promoting New Zealand lamb at the height of their selling season. But Mr Parsons said their complaints were aimed at the retailers, rather than this country.

"The domestic producers in Europe they see it as their market, and consequently there's always a little bit of protectionism or parochialism around their products.

"We supply in their off-season when there's not so much production from European producers, but there often tends to be a niggle in the 'shoulders' of the season. So if their production season has dragged on - which has happened in this case when they had a great growing summer and held onto a lot of livestock - there's a wee bit of tension around that," he said.

"Plus, sheepmeat pricing at farmgate level in the UK has not been where producers would like it to be, and when they see New Zealand lamb being sold in promotions in some of the retail chains they find that a little bit frustrating."

Mr Parsons said the British farmers' complaints are a hardy annual, but they were not throwing rocks at New Zealand.

"And they made this quite clear. They were just frustrated at the retailer for not supporting them. Unfortunately, our lamb had got caught up in the cross-fire a bit.

"Having said all that, certainly all the farming leaders I talked with absolutely acknowledged the importance of New Zealand lamb being on the shelf to ensure lamb is available 12 months of the year and they weren't saying, 'go away'".

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