Hexham auctioneer to quiz MPs over lamb imports

  • In Business
  • 2023-02-08 06:04:34Z
  • By BBC
Jack Walton
Jack Walton  

A livestock auctioneer is heading to Westminster to raise his concerns about "worrying" levels of lamb meat being imported from New Zealand.

Jack Walton, from Northumberland, said supermarkets are stocking "a hell of a lot" of imported frozen meat.

The 25-year-old said British farmers were already struggling in the face of rising running costs.

The National Sheep Association are due to speak to members of the House of Lords and supermarket bosses.

Jack, who chaired his first auction aged 14, is from a family of tenant farmers that has been involved in livestock sales for generations.

Auctioning up to 10,000 sheep every market day Hexham and Northern Marts, he has been in his dream job for more than three years.

"It's a great line of work. You're in charge of a big crowd of people creating a bit of theatre. What more could you want?"

However, he fears for his future.


"The big problem in the sheep industry is that the supermarkets are buying a hell of a lot of New Zealand lamb," Jack said.

"There's thousands of sheep available which would supply our supermarkets but I guess it's cheaper for them to ship it frozen in a boat for 13 weeks across here.

"I don't understand how that can be sustainable.

"It's demoralising. I'll stand there and try and persuade buyers to buy sheep and I know for a fact the farmers aren't making any money."

Jack is also concerned about a lack of interest from the younger generation and the financial hardship facing farmers.

His family are also preparing for the arrival of new lambs but to minimise costs they are doing the lambing themselves.

"It's hectic, it's a 24-hour job," he said. "If we get two to three hours of sleep a night that's pretty good going".

He added: "There's not masses of us getting involved in the industry nowadays, it's a bit of an aging population.

"I was on a farm where a young lad handed his notice in because he realised how tough the job is - working on a hill farm, not seeing people for days and having to put up with it."

Jack Walton auctioneering
Jack Walton auctioneering  

"I'm away down to Westminster to discuss why we need to support British sheep farmers and also look at why on earth it's sustainable to be shipping meat across to this country."

Meetings are due to take place throughout Wednesday.

The National Sheep Association's next generation co-ordinator Katie James said the trip was a "key opportunity".

"Our meeting with several Lords, MPs and Defra representatives and then also with influential retailer M&S gives the young sheep sector representatives a unique opportunity to explain the concerns they have for their futures working in the industry.

"Decisions made in London influence the next generation of our farmers more than most and so it is these young people that can help to shape that future with opportunities such as this meeting."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been approached for comment.

Follow BBC North East & Cumbria on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Send your story ideas to northeastandcumbria@bbc.co.uk.


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