By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
Here we are at the beginning of 2024 and I feel the industry is at a crossroads. The industry I think needs to grab the initiative from the politicians, the NGOs, the assurance companies and the BRC, all of whom are intent on adding cost. They do all this in the name of advancement, but then they do nothing to sell these additions to the consumer.
As a result, we are seeing the steady creep of imports coming onto our shelves, whether it be in sandwiches, pies or other further processed products. The reason is simple: the imports are cheaper.
This was the situation in 2006 and British Chicken Marketing was born, promoting the industry and the Red Tractor to the consumer. It worked and reversed the trend against imports. Today, we still have the Red Tractor, and I feel need it needs to start to aggressively promote British produce before imports get too big in the market. If they will not, then maybe the industry will reluctantly have to look elsewhere. It’s a comment I have heard more than once recently.
There are other initiatives that may change the course of 2024. One is the Government’s review into the egg sector. The egg inquiry could end up changing the shape of contracts between producers and packers. The other big one is the AI compensation review, brought by a group of poultry producers against Defra, and challenging the way compensation is allocated in the event of a cull due to AI.
Both much needed and show the value of the NFU when the chips are down. Let’s hope both are successful. It is a shame they are not doing poultrymeat next as we are still waiting for some recognition of the increased labour and energy cost in the price we are paid.
We have just had our new energy prices for the next two years. Our supplier of 20 years, Scottish Power, has left the marketplace and staying on its new tariff would have doubled our annual price so we used NFU Energy and now have a two-year contract with British Gas, which keeps our price static.
Anyway, here’s to a prosperous and successful New Year!