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Southland-based meat processor Alliance Group has secured an exclusive contract to supply chilled New Zealand lamb to major UK-retailer Marks and Spencer.
The supply arrangement, from Christmas this year, was the first time Marks and Spencer had agreed to an exclusive deal for chilled lamb from a single New Zealand supplier.
Lambs would be sourced from approved farms across the South Island for processing at the company's Lorneville, Pukeuri and Smithfield plants.
The contract marked a "major milestone" in Alliance Group's 20-year relationship with Marks and Spencer, marketing general manager Murray Brown said in a statement.
"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.
Alliance Group was now exploring other initiatives in its agricultural, technical and commercial divisions with Marks and Spencer to "maximise the benefits" of the partnership.
All Alliance Group products supplied to Marks and Spencer would be sourced from registered M&S Select Farms so the co-operative could trace lambs back to their farm of origin.
The M&S Select Farm scheme saw supplying farmers registered on M&S TRAK, a traceability management system launched by Marks and Spencer in 2009.
The programme, which included lamb suppliers from both New Zealand and the UK, featured a database that monitored farm-management, animal origin, and livestock records.
Last month, Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said Silver Fern Farms could not offer organic lamb to Marks and Spencer when it put up its annual six-month supply of chilled New Zealand lamb for sole tender.
While unfortunate, given the effort from both Silver Fern Farms and suppliers who have supported Marks and Spencer for the past five years, the company's priority was to maximise organic and overall chilled supply to supermarket retailer Tesco, Mr Cooper said.