By Tom Wornham, NFU poultry board chairman
When I was a young boy, at the age of five, the succession of farmers in my family would remark about the importance of food to society. “People always gonna need food,” they’d say.
However, nothing is as you would expect and during this COVID-19 pandemic, reports of the desperate situation in the dairy, beef and sheep sectors are concerning. Poultry is not without issues, whether it be access to consumables such as shavings, concerns over labour availability or re-distribution of products from the foodservice sector to the retail sector, these and many other issues have all proved challenging.
Personally, on my broiler farm producing for the independent sector, three areas have concerned me. The day to day operation of my business hasn’t altered, but like preparing for a no-deal Brexit, the issues for the poultry sector are more acute post farm gate than on the farm. Primarily, the cost of feed has rocketed. I’m still getting used to securing feed, having previously been growing for the integrated sector for over 20 years.
Secondly, liaising with my processor has been an eye opener to the issues the sector faces. Communication is very good and the farm is as flexible as necessary to accommodate the request of our processor. A longer turn around period, smaller profile of bird required, even the prospect of not placing chicks have all been considered.
The third concern that I had but am pleased to report I have been reassured by is the support and willingness for businesses that I rely upon to share information, provide the continued good service they have offered and not profiteer during these volatile times.
I believe you can never stop learning and I think this will be something we all take away from the situation we find ourselves in. Whether that be learning something new or learning how to adapt, one thing for sure is that I’ve already started to take note of lessons learnt which can hopefully help prepare us as an industry and ensure we are robust enough to cope with any future challenges that we may face.