Staff in some large supermarkets are telling shoppers that British lamb is "out of season" and that this is the reason for high volumes of New Zealand lamb on the shelves.
The National Sheep Association has reacted angrily to reports of such misinformation being given to consumers.
It was a bitter blow for sheep farmers at a time when farm-gate prices are struggling and many are not receiving financial returns that cover the cost of production, said the NSA. Farm-gate prices dropped to an unacceptable level in the autumn, with the value of a single lamb being as much as £30 less than a year ago, but this has still not resulted in lower retail prices that would encourage more consumers to buy and enjoy British lamb. Given that New Zealand lamb on supermarket shelves is not as cheap as it has been historically, a better pricing structure in supermarkets, a wider selection of domestic cuts and better presentation on the shelf would all benefit shoppers and farmers alike.
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: "The weather last year resulted in lambs growing far slower than normal and this has delayed the seasonal peak of production by up to eight weeks. Unfortunately this peak then clashed with New Zealand imports, which has led to a severe fall in prices. In an ideal world the result would be a drop in shelf price which would stimulate more demand with the price balancing itself out, but this is not happening.
"While we always see a seasonal peak and trough of numbers of lambs marketed, the nature of our farms means there is never a time when UK lamb is out of season. We have a varied climate which results in earlier and later lambing and this in itself spreads the supply of lambs.
"When you consider the close relationship between sheep farming and our iconic landscapes and the diversity of breeds they support, it is easy to see why quality lamb is available all year round."