By Tom Glen, NFU poultry adviser
Nine months ago when the first case of the current avian influenza (AI) outbreak was confirmed in the UK for the winter 2021/22 period, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) would still be in place across Great Britain in July.
The impact of this prolonged outbreak has been felt right across the industry, something clearly reflected in the responses from poultry businesses into Defra and APHA’s ‘lessons learnt’ exercise. Some of the key themes so far include the need to review free-range marketing regulations, improve the poultry register, and address the impact that cases of AI in backyard flocks can have on commercial premises. We’ll continue to work with Defra and the APHA to help highlight the priority areas for future outbreaks.
With harvest now in full swing, attention turns to cereal yields and the potential impact on the cost of feed. As inflation continues to bite, the cost of virtually all inputs to poultry production are likely to keep rising and the NFU continues to focus on fairness in the supply chain in our engagement with retailers as well as the government and other stakeholders.
On a positive note, confirmation from the government that the 2,000 visas for seasonal poultry workers are guaranteed each year until 2024 is very welcome news. The government is also tendering for two labour providers with poultry experience to administer the scheme, which we hope will make it easier for seasonal poultry producers to access the workers they desperately need.
Continuing with the positive news, we’ve just finished recruitment for the 2022-23 NFU Poultry Industry Programme. We received more than 40 applications and the calibre of candidates was extremely high. It’s great to see so many young people who are passionate about the poultry sector and eager to help shape its future.
As I write this, the UK is experiencing record-breaking temperatures and widespread travel disruption due to the extreme heat. I hope everyone was able to manage their birds effectively and collectively considerations are reviewed on how we adapt to cope with extreme weather events in the future.