By Charles Bourns, poultry farmer and chair of Copa Cogeca working group on poultry and eggs
What a funny world we live in, if it wasn’t so serious. There are several topics that concern me, firstly in Europe I believe the Commission has to stop the Ukrainians exporting to Europe tariff-free the breast cut with a little wing on it. They brought in some 130,000 tonnes last year and have negotiated a new TRQ with Ukraine of 70,000 tonnes. This sounds good but the European Board of Development has given MHP, the company responsible for the imports, a loan of 100 million Euros to buy an Estonian processing plant. Copa along with Avec have been lobbying the Commission to try and stop this.
At home our Government have published the new tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They really have shown their true colours when it comes to food, they have hung the egg industry out to dry with no protection, probably in the misguided belief that the Lion Brand is so strong it can keep imports out, totally forgetting about egg products – mistakes others have made in the past. I give the example of salted breast meat from Brazil – it was of no significance when a trade deal was done but it’s now a major part of our imports from Brazil.
A great number of people who are not chicken producers are talking about ASK chicken (otherwise known as the European Chicken Commitment on welfare) because of its perceived success in Holland where it is compulsory and has a market share of 30%. We have to be very careful before we go down this route, at present the consumer is switching off RSPCA Freedom Food Chicken; people just do not seem to want to pay for them. The ASK chicken will cost 20p per kilo extra to produce at farm level – will it be paid for by shoppers? I doubt it at present. I know the NGOs are putting pressure on, but we need to help the retailers to resist it. I will, as always, question why this chicken is perceived to be better welfare. Good stockmanship equals good welfare, not systems.
At home following the refurbishment of the chicken houses I went back into the CCL scheme. We had a target to save over my base year which was a year before refurbishment of 14.7% and we managed to save 39.8%. It just shows how leaky the old sheds were and goes a small way to help us pay for the sheds and for the first time ever I have 60 tonnes of carbon in the bank!