Retailers forced to buy abroad to stave off supply shortage

Supermarkets
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The Independent Online

Supermarkets were yesterday making preparations to source meat supplies from overseas as the growing foot and mouth crisis threatened a long-term halt to British farm production.

Supermarkets were yesterday making preparations to source meat supplies from overseas as the growing foot and mouth crisis threatened a long-term halt to British farm production.

The feared flood of weekend panic buying failed to materialise as consumers heeded advice from retailers that stocks were sufficient to satisfy normal demand for a week.

But as one supermarket chain said its supplies of British pork were likely to run out by mid-week, buyers were heading to the Republic of Ireland to secure stocks.

Safeway, which said it had seen a "slight but not abnormal rise" in demand for fresh meat over the weekend, said it was likely it would no longer be stocking British pork by Tuesday or Wednesday.

A spokeswoman said: "It will not be a question of our customers running short of any meat type. Beef can be sourced from Ireland and lamb from New Zealand. Any meat from abroad is produced to British standards."

Tesco, the country's largest supermarket chain, said it was also taking measures to secure supplies of pork and beef from Eire but would return to British producers "as soon as practicable".

The company underlined it had stocks of beef and lamb that would last beyond the next seven days. Lamb could also be sourced from New Zealand.

Both Sainsbury's and Asda said their meat buyers were looking at supply sources in Northern Ireland and Eire if mainland stocks ran out.

Waitrose said it was satisfied that it had "considerable" stocks of beef and lamb after securing extra supplies before last Friday's ban on animal transportation. It said UK pork stocks would last until March 5.

The Meat and Livestock Commission said the maturation period required for beef meant that supplies of British-produced beef would last well into next month. It was unclear, however, whether Ireland alone would be able to supply enough meat to satisfy British requirements if home-produced stock runs out. Consumption of beef, pork and lamb runs at 49,000 tonnes a week in Britain, of which 39,000 tonnes is reared in the UK. The consumer market is worth £213m a week.

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