Multiples' declarations of sourcing policy are ambiguous Chilled imports annoy farmers Live lamb prices continue mostly firm in the absence of a heavy hogget carryover and with diminishing competition from pork, but auction bids about 15% higher than a year ago are not enough to satisfy producers. Sporadic picketing of retail outlets and distribution depots, especially in north west England and the Welsh borders, reflects farmers' resentment of chilled lamb imports. So far this season the major multiples have not been competing to demonstrate their loyalty to home producers with the same aggression seen in 1998 and last year, when several major chains announced they were abandoning fresh New Zealand product, although the modest reduction in tonnage revealed by statistics implied very large mystery buyers were still out in the marketplace. The multiples' latest declarations of sourcing policy are ambiguous, one example being Sainsbury's deal with West Country supplier Lloyd Maunder bringing new season lamb into stores a couple of months earlier than last year "as part of a drive to encourage demand for British farm produce". Lloyd Maunder's announcement points out the extended season will boost returns for farmers in its region. But the move is restricted to West Country and selected London outlets. Sainsbury is still buying imported fresh product. {{MEAT }}

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