Comment: We need compensation for farms left empty during the pandemic

By Charles Bourns, broiler grower and chair of Copa-Cogeca egg & poultry working group

This month has been a very busy one even if we are in lockdown. I have discovered Zoom. I may not be allowed to go far but the meetings have continued.

I have been invited to join the Aviagen 420 Club. It’s a figure I have never achieved on the farm but it was with great pleasure I accepted the invitation and soon found out during the first Zoom meeting why the others had achieved the accolade.

I have also found it great when needing advice on subjects as light levels used during the period of shavings shortage so I thank Aviagen for the information and hopefully the group will drive the whole industry’s performance up because the figures showed European growers are on EPEF ahead of us.

I have also spent a great deal of time with my European hat trying to obtain compensation from member states with pressure from the Commission as there is money available it just needs directing towards poultry which I described in a meeting with the Deputy Commissioner as the minority sport of agriculture even though we do produce 42% of the meat eaten.

We have been pressing for storage aid, a limit to the imports coming in and certainly better control when the market opens up to stop imports replacing home produced poultry. To this end we are asking for proper country of origin labelling, monies for promotion, and last but not least monies for the producers who have either had their farms left empty or at least destocked due to the foodservice shut down.

We have joined forces as Copa Cogeca with AVEC, the trader organisations and the NFUs BAB office so I hope our efforts will bear some fruit. I will find out more as we have a meeting coming up with all the Member States. 

The past few weeks, there has been Polish meat on the supermarket shelves. I personally was disappointed at the lack of fuss. With the exception of Minette Batters, I did not hear anyone make a sound. Where was The Red Tractor in all of this? I know most beef farmers feel the same way.

On the farm we have just finished our first crop of Better Chicken Commitment birds. They are very different to grow as they are so unpredictable and strange. If you say open the big doors at the end of the shed they will step back a few paces and then decide you are going to let them out and advance towards them, but if you scratch your head, wear different clothes or cough they will scatters to the four corners. Anyway, we have had our first result and they have done ok. The main disappointment is that no one is promoting them to the consumers and telling them why they should pay the £2 extra for the chicken so my feeling it will be the same story as 2008/9 when we did Freedom Foods.

Lastly, I would like to be a little self indulgent and use this space to thank Gary Ford for the last six years he has spent as chief poultry advisor at the NFU. He is taking up a new role in July as NFU regional director for East Anglia. His hard work and passion has shone through and I know I for one I will miss him, even if the meetings may be a little shorter in the future! Sorry Gary, I couldn’t help myself.


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