Borders MP backing farmers’ plea to supermarkets for support

Borders MP John Lamont is backing a plea by farmers across the country to supermarkets to sell home-grown meat rather than relying on imports.

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 3:31 pm
National Farmers' Union Scotland president Andrew McCornick at his farm at Lochfoot, west of Dumfries.

Angered by reports of shelf space being given over by Asda and Sainsbury’s to Polish beef rather than meat produced closer to home, Scotland’s National Farmers’ Union chiefs have written to the UK’s eight largest supermarkets calling for a rethink.

That letter – sent to Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Marks and Spencer and the Co-op as well as Asda and Sainsbury’s, all chains with branches in the Borders – urges them to support Scottish farmers during the current coronavirus crisis by ensuring their stock-sourcing teams give priority to indigenous products.

The union’s Scottish president, Andrew McCornick, of Lochfoot, near Dumfries, said: “Our members continue to do all we can to support the nation in navigating these extremely turbulent times.

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“Scotland’s farmers and crofters, producing the finest red meat in the world, were justifiably angered and frustrated at the appearance of Polish beef on some supermarket shelves at the start of this crisis.

“We immediately contacted the two retailers involved and received assurances that this was nothing more than a fill gap to tide them over during the panic-buying spree and it was not something they were intending to repeat. We will hold them to account on that.

“All major retailers have been written to reminding them that they are uniquely placed, through a clear commitment to domestic sourcing, to give farmers and growers the confidence to continue producing.

“We need to see Scottish and British on the shelves and not find imported produce, previously destined for the food service sector, diverted onto shop shelves.

“One retailer has already confirmed its intention to run a promotion on higher-value beef cuts to correct carcase balance issues and maintain the value of the cattle at a time when prices are falling.

“We would welcome speedy responses from all retailers contacted on what positive actions they have planned in the short term to support food production from farm gate to the plate.”

That plea is being supported by Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Mr Lamont, saying: “Seeing imported meat products on our shelves is a real slap in the face for Scottish farmers who are busting a gut calving, lambing and producing food to help our country get through this crisis.

“I spoke with senior management at the supermarkets selling these imports. I can understand the sourcing difficulties they will have been having over recent weeks with people panic-buying, but we need a firm commitment that this is only a temporary measure.

“Scottish farmers must be rewarded for their hard work during this time.”

“A number of Borders farmers have contacted me and they are rightly very angry about this.

“All of us must do our utmost to buy local where we can and show our support for their hard work.”