Many pubs and restaurants may need to consider alternatives to lamb owing to increasing costs and interrupted supply, as the Schmallenberg virus ravages stock around Europe.
The disease has emerged in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and now the UK, according to the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has identified 83 farms in the UK with the virus (SBV) infection. Five of the positive cases have been diagnosed in cattle, 78 in sheep, and none to date in other species.
Buying specialist Lynx Purchasing suggested the shortage might push up the price of menu favourites such as roast lamb and lamb shank. Managing director John Pinder said: "The arrival of the virus in the UK is clearly a tragedy for the farms affected, and will also have an impact on the food service sector.
"Lamb prices are already at very high levels, and will inevitably rise further as a result of the shortage of new spring lamb caused by the virus. That will push the price beyond the point where many operators can afford to offer roast lamb as an option in carveries and Sunday lunches, simply because their customers won't be prepared to pay the higher prices that will have to be charged."
Lamb prices rose by 16.2% in the year to January, according to ONS inflation figures.
The Schmallenberg virus, which is transmitted by midges, mosquitoes and ticks, has been associated with brief mild to moderate disease (milk drop, pyrexia, diarrhoea) in adult cattle and late abortion or birth defects in newborn cattle, sheep and goats.
By Lisa Jenkins
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