By Thomas Wornham, NFU poultry board chairman
I have recently read several articles that report the rocketing demand for poultry products in supermarkets and the huge increase in sales, but unfortunately none of these have also reported the increased pressure poultry producers are coming under due to the closure of the food service market.
There has been a disastrous effect on processors and farmers supplying this market. The closure of restaurants, pubs and fast food restaurants has resulted in a net reduction in demand for poultry meat and the sector has reacted by reducing the number of chicks placed on farm by approximately 15% or 3 million less birds per week.
Farmers, such as myself have increased the period of time between chick placement from a standard 12 days to 22 days in my case, to accommodate the reduction in number of birds the market can sell.
Supermarkets have been supportive of our sector by promoting Red Tractor poultry during this time and have held regular meetings with the NFU to gauge an understanding of the supply chain, taking chicken from processors that have not been supplying them historically.
As the government works to return our economy to a position of functionality, the success of the poultry industry will be reliant upon the opening of the food service sector.
The UK troubles are reflected across the globe and food is plentiful in cold storage. It is vital the UK does not become the dumping ground for product from around the globe based upon price. Our standards of production are world leading and are not standard practice in other locations.
The poultry sector has been successful by focusing upon the customers’ requirements throughout the food chain, to deliver a product at every price point over successive years. Any short-term opportunism will have long lasting detrimental consequences for hatcheries, farmers, processors, feed mills and the UK cereal farmers, the largest supplier of product to the poultry industry.
I truly hope the UK Government can support all sectors by ensuring only imports produced to our same high standards enter the UK. Defra are certainly aware of the concerns we have.