Informed - November

The chicken sector is under great pressure at the moment as downward price pressure and lost income causes a strain on the chain, writes Maria Ball, chief advisor for poultry at the NFU.

This comes at a time when the industry has never been bigger (860m birds each year) and actively promotes Red Tractor chicken and the benefits of buying British. So why is there such a strain?

Farmers have been vulnerable to increasing costs, mainly energy, over the last year, but feed costs have risen by as much as £7 in one week alone. Energy costs are a smaller percentage of input costs, and there seems to be some ease in pressure, but feed costs have now taken over as a concern into the winter. Input costs have risen by some 5-7% but the farm gate price has remained steady.

The NFU and other industry representatives are now asking the secretary of state to stop the charges associated with the Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control regulation for three years. The regulation asks around £6,000 from farmers with birds of more than 40,000 places. This full cost recovery approach to enforcement of regulation is a real threat to the sector and although MPs have been sympathetic, the real power to lift the huge costs to farmers and processors rests with the food and farming minister.

The poultry industry has continued to deliver vast benefits to the consumer in a market worth £2.94bn (retail sales) and it is the favourite protein of choice - but now the sector needs help from government and its customers.

Increasing costs to farmers need to be recognised from the supply chain.

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