By Tom Wornham, chairman of the NFU poultry board
With the pace of change so quick at the moment, I’m in danger of my words being out of date by the time you read this but I wanted to take the opportunity to address the coronavirus crisis and its impact on the poultry sector.
Demand for poultry products has gone through the roof as supermarkets feel the force of the coronavirus restrictions, with demand for eggs in some of the supermarkets up as much as 100% and for some individual businesses supplying the retail sector increases in excess of 300%.
Demands in the poultry meat sector have also reportedly been up by nearly 75%. Increased demand, coupled with the loss of customers in the food service sector, has led to some businesses coming under increased pressure.
The NFU has been taking decisive action, leading talks with government and industry, on how we can divert supply destined for food service into retail. I’m pleased to see that surplus eggs are being reallocated into this sector and the same is happening for poultry meat too.
I am hearing concerns out there from members and I have been gathering feedback from the industry tirelessly, alongside the NFU poultry team, to identify issues for our members and pinch points in the supply chain.
Access to labour has been a long-standing concern for our sector and it’s clear that this is not going away, with concerns about the availability of workers on farm but also in the supply chain. We’re working with government to ensure there are solutions in place to ensure we have the workers needed to supply the public demand for poultry products.
These are extraordinary times and I am confident we will continue to see accelerated demand for the high-quality poultry meat and eggs that we produce for the foreseeable future. We already have a robust poultry supply chain and we are seeing the value of that now. The NFU team will be working tirelessly to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum and that supply can keep moving to the supermarket shelves.