Investment needed for poultry housing

Aging chicken houses could jeopardise the poultry industry’s future unless farmers receive better margins to invest in new buildings.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) warns that government and the supply chain must recognise that chicken farmers need to make significant investment to ensure a sustainable long-term supply of British chicken.

Its Poultry Housing Age Survey of 1,572 chicken houses (35% of the industry) found that only 8% had been built in the past 10 years while 60% of broiler houses were more than 20 years old. It highlighted a lack of capital investment due to poor returns and cited complex planning rules, environmental regulations and the loss of tax allowances as all causing additional headaches for farmers.

Said Rob Newbery, NFU chief poultry advisor: “The margins farmers make don’t support investment - these need to improve while contracts need to include capital costs.”

He said if nothing was done, the country would become more reliant on imports and there would be a gradual decline in the UK industry. “We are sounding the alarm bell before it’s too late.”

British Poultry Council chief executive Peter Bradnock said although birds could be grown successfully in old houses, investment was needed so that farmers could meet environmental requirements such as energy use and insulation standards. “We’re extremely concerned that the government has removed tax allowance on housing and equipment - it’s important to recognise that investment in new and upgraded housing is beneficial to industry, for the capacity to continue to rear chickens.”

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