By Aimee Mahony, chief poultry advisor, NFU
It goes without saying that the rising costs of production are causing more than just concerns for poultry farmers. We continue to raise awareness of the impacts of rising input costs on poultry businesses with various stakeholders, and the NFU’s national poultry board members are exploring ways to ensure a fairer sharing of risk and reward throughout the supply chain.
Alongside the cost-of-living crisis, there are many other challenges facing the sector, not least labour shortages and avian influenza. To take the latter first, with the industry witnessing the worst-ever outbreak of the disease over the 2021/22 winter and experts predicting that AI is likely to be an annual event in the UK, bird keepers are being urged to review their first line of defence: biosecurity.
The recent government announcement is welcomed – committing £1.5 million for funding research into AI to develop strategies to tackle outbreaks of the H5N1 strain. There is a lot we do not know about AI and we hope that this research can help us understand more about this devastating disease.
We want to work with the Government to minimise the impacts of any AI outbreaks and prevent poultry producers experiencing another year like this one.
Last but by no means least, you may have seen that, as part of the National Food Strategy, the Government has announced that 2,000 seasonal worker visas will be made available to the poultry sector. NFU members have been providing evidence to the Government and asking for a suitable dedicated scheme for the poultry sector for 2022 and beyond.
We welcome this timely announcement, which will allow businesses more time to plan compared to last year. However, the sector promptly needs more details of the scheme to maximise uptake and secure business resilience in the run-up to Christmas in particular.
We will continue to provide evidence to demonstrate the requirements of the sector in 2022 and beyond, and if appropriate we will ask the Government to review the number of visas provided as the 2,000 allocated in this initial announcement are likely to fall short of the sector’s total requirements.