Alliance Group has secured a deal to be the sole-supplier of chilled New Zealand lamb to UK retailer Marks & Spencer.
The company's Lorneville plant, near Invercargill, will be one of three plants to process lamb from approved farms for export from Christmas.
It is the first time the overseas retailer has agreed to an exclusive deal for chilled lamb from one single NZ supplier.
Alliance Group general manager marketing Murray Brown said the contract was a major milestone for the company.
"We're very excited about the growth opportunities it offers for everyone involved. This deal is good news for our farmer suppliers," he said.
Their customers were "top end" and it would be good to see some of those premiums filter down to farmers, Mr Brown said. Marks & Spencer head of agriculture and fisheries sourcing Steve McLean said he was impressed with Alliance's commitment to high quality lamb and was confident it would meet the needs of their customers.
The lambs will be sourced from M&S Select farms so the final product could be sourced back to the farm it came from.
Beef + Lamb southern South Island director and sheep farmer Leon Black said the deal was a positive step for the meat industry.
"It's good news because we keep saying we need transparency between producers and the end customer."
Overseas retailers usually liked to have two or three NZ suppliers, Mr Black said.
An exclusive deal meant it was easier for the company to levy premiums, customers had a better idea about where their product was from and producers had a clear message about what was expected, he said.
Meanwhile, the meat industry has reacted cautiously to a British website's suggestion that UK consumers should buy New Zealand lamb if they want to help save the planet.
The claim is based on a study showing food production may be responsible for almost a third of the world's greenhouse gases.
The Mail Online yesterday quoted experts from international agricultural research organisation CGIAR saying Britons could reduce emissions and save money by importing efficiently reared lamb from New Zealand.
By comparison British farming methods produced twice as much greenhouse gas, the website reported.
The CGIAR study says food systems contribute up to 29 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, not the 14 per cent previously thought.
A 2006 Lincoln University report on the concept of "food miles" concluded that the energy used in producing British lamb was four times higher than that used by New Zealand lamb producers, even after including the energy used in transporting New Zealand lamb to the other side of the world.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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