The warning came as sheep farmers withheld lamb supplies this week and dairy farmers bought up all the milk at two supermarkets in the latest protest of its kind.
Meanwhile in France, farmers have recently blocked border roads, dumped manure, set fire to tyres and released live pigs in supermarkets in protest against cheap imports.
‘Light the blue touch paper’
David Handley, chairman of Farmers for Action (FFA), said frustrated British farmers, who were losing money due to low prices, had been forced into a corner and must now “fight to survive”.
“I think the threat to withhold lamb this week and protest action that is being taken in respect of lamb is nothing more than can be expected from farmers who have continually had their prices driven down by imported New Zealand lamb,” Handley said.
“It was pretty obvious that at some point somebody was going to light the blue touch paper.”
The lamb supply boycott, branded No Lamb Week, has been widely publicised on social media and runs until Friday, August 7.
Over the weekend farmers protested about low lamb prices at a Tesco distribution centre in Cheshire and dairy farmers bought all the milk at two Morrisons stores in Cornwall and Devon.
Handley blamed manufacturers and retailers for sourcing cheap lamb from New Zealand despite the fact there was a “massive tonnage” of home-grown lamb.
“Why do you want to source lamb from the other side of the world when you have got the highest quality British lamb at the peak of its season coming onto the market reasonably priced?” he said.
Asked what power farmers have to disrupt the food supply chain, he said: “We’ve got plenty. You name it, we can do it.”
Handley hinted at potential militant action such as plans to intercept supplies of imported produce.
“The next thing that will be happening is we will be finding the products that are being imported and they will be delivered back to where they come from.
“But they’ll go the quickest route and they’ll go back into the sea that surrounds this island and they can swim back on their own,” he said.
Anger at New Zealand imports
“Why do you want to source lamb from the other side of the world when you have got the highest quality British lamb at the peak of its season coming onto the market reasonably priced?”
- David Handley, chairman of Farmers for Action (FFA)
But Handley said he does not want farmers to set fire to tyres in the road and put live farm animals in supermarkets as French farmers have done.
Of the French protests, he said: “It may have exacerbated the whole situation with people looking and seeing that, but at the end of the day we are not French.”
‘Genuine frustration that farmers currently have’
National Farmers Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond said prices were not sustainable for sheep farmers and poor returns were jeopardising future production levels.
“Large numbers of messages about #NoLambWeek on social media reflect the genuine frustration that farmers currently have with the lamb supply chain,” Raymond said.
“However, as a trade association, the NFU cannot legally call for a block on the supply of lamb without being in breach of competition law.”
A spokeswoman at the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said: “Farmers are so frustrated that they are finding themselves having to take direct action, which shows the severity of the problems with regards to milk and lamb especially.
“We can empathise and understand why they are taking direct action, but unfortunately we as a union do not get involved.”