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Invercargill-based meat processor and exporter, Alliance Group, has secured an exclusive deal to supply chilled New Zealand lamb to British retail giant Marks & Spencer.
Alliance, which is the world's largest processor and exporter of sheepmeat, will be the sole supplier of chilled New Zealand lamb to Marks & Spencer from this Christmas, sourcing lambs from approved farms across the South Island for processing at the company's Lorneville (Invercargill), Pukeuri (Oamaru) and Smithfield (Timaru) plants.
The supply arrangement is the first time Marks & Spencer has agreed to an exclusive deal for chilled lamb from a single New Zealand supplier, Alliance said.
Marks & Spencer supplies a wide range of lamb products to its UK customers, with its fresh lamb offer featuring a full selection of bone-in and boneless cuts.
Murray Brown, general manager marketing at Alliance Group, said the contract marks a major milestone in Alliance Group's 20-year relationship with Marks & Spencer.
"As they have a loyal customer base for lamb, coupled with the fact that our chilled lamb programme runs counter-cyclical to the UK domestic supply season, we're very excited about the growth opportunities it offers for everyone involved," he said in a statement.
Steve McLean, head of agriculture & fisheries sourcing at Marks & Spencer, said the company wanted to strengthen its links with its producers.
All Alliance products supplied to Marks & Spencer will be sourced from registered "M&S Select" farms so that the cooperative can trace lambs back to their farm of origin.
The M&S Select Farm scheme sees supplying farmers registered on a traceability management system launched by Marks & Spencer in 2009.
The programme, which includes lamb suppliers from both New Zealand and the United Kingdom, features a database that monitors farm-management, animal origin and livestock records.
Marks & Spencer is one of the UK'S leading retailers with more than 21 million customers every week. The company employs over 78,000 people in the United Kingdom and abroad. Alliance Group is a co-operative owned by about 5,000 farmer shareholders.