By Charles Bourns, poultry grower and chair of Copa Cogeca working group on poultry and eggs
This month has been a very busy one. I have been on holiday to South Africa where the prices in the shops are more than ours for chicken, which surprised me, as eating out is very reasonable. I stayed outside Hermanus, about 70 miles from Cape Town. It is a very beautiful country but has 60% unemployment. I did see men beside the road with chainsaws, not to chop me up, but looking to be hired to cut trees down or any other work one can do with a chainsaw. Maybe we could use labour from South Africa to replace those that are missing here?
Whilst there I started to think about product at home, especially when we drove through five hours of corn. If we are to have another tier of chicken, why are we just copying what others are doing? Surely we should develop our own standards that would be more difficult to reproduce, perhaps a new breed or enrichment that the consumer would be prepared to rewards us for. We do need to remember however that 96% of consumers are happy with our present offering.
A welfare organisation have just written to all livestock producers asking them if they are in a Badger Cull Area and if so to let them know. As chicken cannot carry TB, it seems this it is purely politics and puts the farmer in a very difficult place.
Last week I attended the NFU Joint Farmers Union meeting and it was certainly very interesting to hear from the Ulster Farmers Union about the problems that a hard border would cause them. I had not realised that 45,000 tonnes of manure goes to the Republic or that 12,000 tonnes of feather and factory waste go south. That on top of lost orders for chicken would be very grim. The position in Scotland also did not fill me with confidence. Over production in the free-range market is hitting producers hard but there does not seem to be an easy answer to this with new retail contract starting on the 1 October in many instances.
We did discuss Brexit but whatever was said will be well out of date by the time you read this.
On the home front performance seems to be improving again. My son has made an executive decision and we are replacing a shed of pan feeders. The feeders were the only equipment we kept from before the refurbishment. He has been on the Tesco Future Farmers course which has boosted his confidence and introduced him to other farmers away from me. I would recommend it to any young farmer.