UK retailers are being urged to buy British lamb by the UK’s National Farmers Union (NFU).

The UK is an important market for Irish lamb and the move comes at a time when Irish sheep farmers are coming under pressure, with factory quotes back at least 50c/kg on this time last year, the ICSA has said.

The NFU has written to all the major retailers in the UK to strengthen their commitments to sourcing peak season British lamb.

The NFU sent letters to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, The Co-operative, Aldi, Brakes, Sodexo, Whitbread, Lidl and Compass earlier this month.

It says that the Co-operative and multi-million pound foodservice supplier, Brakes, have already acted, setting out their commitments to sourcing British lamb after questions raised by the NFU.

Brakes confirmed to the NFU that all of its fresh and frozen lamb will be British Red Tractor assured by the end of July while the Co-operative is bringing forward the season for its ‘truly irresistible’ British lamb supply.

Part of its ask of retailers includes greater transparency and a commitment to deliver on British lamb sourcing, as well as ensuring that labelling is clear on British lamb and that the Red Tractor logo is used prominently.

Imports of sheepmeat to the UK in April fell as expected with volumes down by 14% at 10,700t.

Part of this included Irish sheepmeat, which saw volumes drop 28% in April.

Both Irish and UK sheep numbers have increased in recent years and the UK remains Ireland’s second most important market, after France.

Together, the UK and France, account for over 60% of total export volumes of Irish sheepmeat in 2014.

Last year, shipments to the UK stood at around 9,000t according to Bord Bia figures and represents 13% of total Irish sheepmeat exports, down from 16% in 2013.