National Farmers’ Union poultry chairman Charles Bourns said a survey of the NFU’s poultry producer group - made up of 12 of the industry’s best and most efficient chicken farmers - had revealed concerns that current cost increases were unsustainable.
“Labour costs for these farmers have risen after a 4.5% increase imposed by the Agricultural Wages Board, while electricity costs have risen by up to 40% in the past year.
“These producers are taking steps to make efficiencies, but there’s only so much they can do when their costs are going through the roof.”
Bourns said that chick prices paid by farmers had also risen by around £3 per 100 chicks, because hatcheries were already passing on their increased costs to farmers.
He gave his backing to Grampian County Food Group’s appeal to retailers to pay more for the meat they buy (The Grocer July 16, p66).
Grampian has pledged to pass back at least a third of any increase it wins to farmers. However, Bourns warned: “Whether that’s enough depends on what increase they get. One third of 1p/kg is not very much.”
Meanwhile, Bourns said an outbreak of Newcastle disease on a pheasant farm was a timely reminder that the industry should remain vigilant about avian diseases. He added: “It is lucky that it has happened in an area of Surrey not known for commercial poultry.”