ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has criticised Tesco for undermining premium spring lamb producers by offloading spring lamb at unsustainably low prices in shops.
"Tesco is currently selling leg of spring lamb at a ridiculously low price of €8.69/kg. This can only be described as below cost selling. This will have the effect of putting farmers out of business. ICSA is calling for this practice to stop immediately. Farmers need at least €7/kg for high cost early spring lamb systems and allowing for processing costs, it is clear that a retail price of €8.69/kg is unsustainable. Meanwhile, retailers seem to have no problem getting €33/kg for farmed salmon," he said.
"Spring lamb has to be marketed as a premium product. This puts it way below the cost of most steak cuts and much closer to mince price," said Mr Brooks.
He said that Tesco needed to understand that early lamb production was a complex and high cost system.
"Spring lamb producers excelled as usual. They carefully planned lambing dates /sale dates, cared for their flock pre and post-lambing at a time of year when you have long winter nights and feed costs are at a maximum in order to have a premium product ready for Easter and early summer," said Mr Brooks.
"It's now the time of year when early spring lamb producers are calculating their losses from their enterprise. After all this work the industry cheats us by paying a bad price and introducing spurious weight limits. Early spring lamb producers need a minimum of €7/kg and a realistic weight limit of 22kgs in order to leave farmers with a small profit margin," he said.
Mr Brooks said that this year the industry colluded to ensure the price barely exceeded €6/kg and the meat industry imposed a spurious weight limit as low as 20kgs.