UK Poultry Producers On the Brink: NFU Survey Uncovers Deep Industry Concerns

13/02/2024

The Uncertain Future of Poultry Production

A recent survey indicates a worrying trend among UK poultry producers, with 24% of egg producers and 15% of chicken meat producers uncertain or unlikely to continue their operations beyond November 2025. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) survey, which gathered insights from over 250 poultry producers, points to insufficient returns as the primary cause of this potential decline.

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Avian Influenza: A Looming Threat

The risk of avian influenza weighs heavily on the industry, with a staggering 94% of egg producers and 92% of chicken meat producers expressing significant concern. This dread is a testament to the disease’s potential to devastate poultry businesses and the wider agricultural community.

Supply Chain Fairness and Energy Costs Raise Alarm

Poultry producers are also troubled by perceived injustices in the supply chain and the impact of high energy prices on their livelihoods. A vast majority of egg producers (90%) and a considerable portion of chicken meat producers (76%) are seeking a more balanced and fair supply chain, while high energy expenses are a source of anxiety for 92% of egg producers and 61% of chicken meat producers.

Competition from Imports Adds to Sector Strain

Competition from overseas is another critical issue, with 90% of egg producers and 78% of chicken meat producers worried about being undercut by imports. This concern underscores the need for measures to protect domestic producers from international market pressures.

NFU Calls for Action

In response to these findings, the NFU is advocating for greater equity in poultry supply chains, the inclusion of poultry producers in the Energy Intensive Industries scheme, and a proactive government strategy to combat future bird flu outbreaks. James Mottershead, chair of the NFU poultry board, emphasizes the importance of British eggs and poultry meat and the current strains threatening the sector’s stability.

A Plea for Support and Fairness

Mottershead highlights the volatile production costs and the constant menace of avian influenza as factors placing extreme pressure on producers. He insists on the need for support, certainty, and fairness to maintain the sector’s ability to provide quality, safe, and sustainably produced poultry products. The NFU’s call for change aims to ensure a fairer distribution of risk and reward within the poultry supply chain.

Anticipating Government Response

While the number of avian influenza outbreaks has been minimal this winter, the NFU stresses the importance of remaining vigilant. The industry awaits the government’s publication of recommendations from the AI Vaccination Taskforce to make informed decisions and safeguard the national flock. The future of UK poultry, a staple in many diets, hangs in the balance as farmers and the NFU push for necessary reforms.

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