£5 million loss every week

That's how much poultry trade is losing to avian ?u scare

That's how much poultry trade is losing to avian flu scare.

POULTRY PROCESSORS are losing around £5m a week in a bid to try and stave off the effects of the avian influenza scare. Farming bosses are now warning that the industry, which is worth £3bn, will not survive in the current climate unless prices rise. The National Farmers' Union is calling on processors to obtain a price increase from customers averaging 8% across all product lines or 12p per kg at least. Avian influenza which has had a considerable effect on EU member states such as Italy and France, with sales plunging to 70% and 30% respectively, has had a smaller impact on the UK with a fall of 10% since Autumn 2005. But the cost to the UK chicken processors has been estimated at around £5m a week as they have attempted, with some success, to keep chicken selling heavily by funding in-store promotions, rather than cutting back sharply on chicken production. This cost, according to the NFU and the poultry industry is unsustainable. Average retail prices during March 2006 were down 9% on the same period in 2005 and 13% below average prices in 2004, despite sales volumes being up overall.

The British chicken industry also blamed other member states for dumping meat onto the UK market, and in particular wholesale markets. "These very low priced imports have pushed prices down below the cost of production, severely damaging British companies which supply into those markets. It has also created a loss of market share and fall in production at farm level," claimed Charles Bourns, NFU poultry board chairman. He added that in recent weeks the turkey meat market had also been heavily affected by surplus European supplies. This sharp decrease in imported meat has had a dramatic impact on the UK wholesale market. Many birds left unsold have been stored, ultimately losing fresh price and incurring additional storage costs. The British Poultry Council warned that many turkey producers were now in serious threat of going out of business as the processing part of the sector competes with greater volumes of European imports sold into the retail market. The NFU and the BPC are also calling for a three-year suspension of the implementation date of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (IPPC). All poultry farms with more than 40,000 birds will have to apply for a permit by the end of the year which will cost them £6,000 per ?ock.

Bourns said that the introduction of these new regulations at this delicate time for the industry could mean the end for many producers. "We are urging the government through Defra and the Environment Agency to support this urgent request and to champion the poultry industry's concerns in the EU. In its current state, the UK poultry industry, quite simply cannot afford to meet any additional legislative costs."

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