Comment: One million signatures can’t be wrong

By Charles Bourns, broiler producer and egg & poultry chair, Copa-Cogeca

This month has been a funny one, busy but not busy if you know what I mean. It started with a Zoom call with other producers around Europe to find out just how they were getting on with the effects of the coronavirus and Avian Influenza on their industries.

We found out that the Danes have had no problems and in fact exports and home production of poultry has not been affected at all, but at the other extreme Poland’s production is probably 20% down due to three main reasons – cheap imports from Ukraine, the closure of their foodservice industry and the lack of export demand. The Poles usually export upto 75% of their production. Their industry has also grown enormously over the past 10 years growing at 6 % per annum.

Elsewhere in Europe the only other country really to be suffering was Hungary but that was mainly due to AI affecting its duck industry.

With all this turmoil in Europe I think it is fantastic how many British consumers have signed up to the NFU Petition to make sure the Government does not break its promise over not allowing food to be imported produced to lower standards than our own and make sure the countries we import have such things as national salmonella control plans, something which for instance the USA does not. So, chlorine or no chlorine chicken and eggs from America should not be allowed in. If any of you have not signed the petition please join the one million plus that have and if you really feel enthused enough write to your MP as 80,000 plus have done.

At home we have had our first crop of the Tesco Room to Roam chicken through and they did fairly well, but did leave room for improvement. My one disappointment is that they have had a soft launch and sales are poor. It is not great to know that after 49 days of work 40% of your chicken will sell only because they are discounted in the store; it is a situation that cannot last.

I know Tesco is taking action to try and improve the situation but where are the RSPCA and Red Tractor? Anyway, the next crop is in, so as they say onwards and upwards.

I have also used the Aviagen 420 Club whatsapp group to ask for advice for a problem we had when a feeder broke. I have found having this as a back up in these days of lockdown very useful as a problem shared is a problem halved.

This month we have changed our water sanitising system to the IWS system as it seems less complicated and the old system kept blocking up and not working. Let’s hope I have not made another mistake that my son can point his finger at me for.

I have also this month carried on doing my Saturday job of delivering eggs for my son into Bristol and now appreciate how difficult it must be for large companies to get their production and demand tied t gether as this month I have delivered between two and 10 boxes to one customer per week. In the poor weeks some of the eggs went to a local food bank, as there just wasn’t the demand.

Lastly as I write this it is raining for the third day on the trot. In Gloucester we have an NFU whatsapp group and up until now it has been all about drought and how little rain we have had. I think even the driest fields have now had enough. In fact, the beans in the field next to the farm have shot up. I’ve been talking to another neighbour who has been combining, as he feeds his barley cropped to his cattle; the berry in the barley is good so just maybe this rain will have saved the harvest, grain-wise if not the straw.

Lastly, I would like to be a little self indulgent and wish two of our industry’s elder statesmen a very happy 90th birthday, who marked the occasion both on the same day. They are Aled Griffiths and Derek Kelly; it is just a pity that the virus halted the celebrations.


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