Poultry producers have criticised the government for underestimating the gravity of the crisis facing organic poultry production.

Supermarkets are expected to run short of organic chicken from March as a result of a chronic shortage of organic feed, bringing to an end two years of spectacular growth.

The British Poultry Council has now warned that organic chicken will not reappear on supermarket shelves until after the autumn, when new supplies of organic wheat are harvested.

The matter has been raised with Defra and the European Commission, but officials have refused to relax the rules on feed, which now require organic chickens to be fed at least 85% organic feed. The only concession has been to allow farmers to use more feed from farms in organic conversion.

This would not be adequate, according to British Poultry Council chairman Ted Wright.

"Defra and the European Commission have failed to realise the gravity of the situation and its consequences for British organic poultry," he said.

"If something is not done to extend the current stock of feed we will run out, and organic meat will disappear from the shelves of supermarkets until after the next harvest."

Major egg producer Deans Foods has already written to customers saying organic wheat could run out in March and some feed companies have warned the pinch could come even sooner.

The multiples claimed, however, that there was no cause for alarm yet.

A spokesman for Tesco said: "It's too early for us to say something - we have adequate supplies at present."

Meanwhile, Alastair Dickie, director of crop marketing at the Home-Grown Cereals Authority, said the arable sector was being encouraged to plant more organic cereals.

But even with production growth, the BPC claimed there could be a shortage next year as well, creating further organic chicken supply problems.