Comment: Reasons to be cheerful

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

 I have been feeling a little depressed about the future, which is unlike me, but over the past two days I have been on a couple of webinars and zoom calls that have picked me up. Obviously with the virus shutting some processing plants and with the cost of this hitting the industry just now it is worrying. I just hope the Red Tractor can come up with a contingency plan to make the processors and farmers lives easier at the time and those who have had to deal with the situation deserve a medal from the rest of us.

Anyway, what has changed my mood is a great number of little facts: Firstly, there will be 4.6 million more people to feed this Christmas. Secondly, whilst our harvest is down about six million tonnes and we have the most expensive wheat in the world, there are imports of wheat for feed coming into the country to replace our poor harvest, which should stabilise prices.

I watched a talk by Robobank which showed post-Brexit the UK will become more self sufficient in poultry (we import 800,000 tonnes from the EU now and export to them 340,000 tonnes). Poultrymeat sales are predicted to keep increasing whilst other proteins will decrease over the next five years. In fact the growth in Europe excluding the UK is predicted to be 1.6 million tonnes, mainly in the Eastern European countries plus Spain and there is predicted to be an increase in value added products increasing from 8% to 15% during this period.

On another call the speaker told us to be proud of what we have done over the last few months of COVID. We have kept the supply of poultrymeat on the shelves despite the many problems and we need to hammer this point home. We as an industry when it comes to the future are part of the solution on global warming and lead the way on welfare, antibiotic reduction, and efficiency. I see from the Aviagen 420 Club, feed conversion is now regularly down in the low 1.4 1 ration. So all in all I now feel a great deal happier. I have also stopped watching the news!

The NFU had a turkey webinar which was very successful. It showed that costs have gone up 5% this year and at present despite the lockdown those that have ordered turkey are still ordering the same weights as last year.

On the farm we have just put out our best flock with a modest EPEF 407 (I say modest because some farms are now regularly achieving 430 plus) despite some leg issues at the end taking the shine off the result. We have always had a water decrease about 20 days and so a loss of growth but this time we tried coccibol and it stopped this decline. We are going back to Better Chicken Commitment chicken next time as sales have increased. No one is sure why, except there is a shortage of free-range so maybe customers are trading down.


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