The recent rise in poultry prices must stay in place to allow the industry to remain competitive, leaders have claimed.

While a current shortness of supply has sent poultry prices rocketing by up to a fifth, poultry bosses said those increases were vital. “The rises can’t just be a temporary surge,” said Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council. “They must be permanent.”

A combination of factors has created the shortage, from the recent heatwave to avian influenza on the continent and the weak pound making imports less attractive.

The heat has also led to reports of birds dying from heat exhaustion, although Bradnock
and producers deny any major cases of this.

He said: “The rise in price is essential in any event to allow the industry to recoup some of its costs.”

He said feed costs in particular have risen by almost 50% in the last year. “They represent around 40% of the cost of an oven-ready bird, so that is a major increase for the industry to bear.”

He said the poultry business had also suffered competition from cheap imports which had served to keep prices low.

Recent changes in the law to stop lightly salted chicken entering under a lower tariff, along with the weak pound discouraging imports, had led to a change in market dynamics.

“It is the right time for a general price increase, but we don’t want consumers thinking we are taking advantage of the short supply to bump up the price,” said Bradnock.

“A rise of 15% is essential for the industry to remain viable, not because we are taking advantage of the tragic situation both here and on the continent.

“The idea that the industry is making a killing off the back of the heatwave is missing the real issue.”
Ed Bedington