Andy Lewins, joint MD of Cranberry Foods, said Britain’s turkey sector had shrunk dramatically in the past 12 years and would continue to do so next year.
This was because of an increasing tendency among retailers, manufacturers and foodservice suppliers to buy cheap meat from abroad, something he described as a “cancer”. Poult placings would fall to 19 million next year, he claimed, compared with 22 million this year.
Lewins said the decline of the domestic industry had nothing to do with falling consumption
of turkey. “The irony here is that we don’t actually need to persuade the great British public to eat more turkey, for if we simply supplied all the turkey currently consumed in the UK, we would be placing an astounding 12 million more poults per year.
“This is because the chief architect of the decline has been the pan-European and global sourcing of turkey meat. This has been like a cancer eating away at our sector and also agriculture in general.”
Lewins, speaking at this year’s British Turkey Awards, said retail buyers were under pressure “to grab the fast buck of cheap imports”. He added: “Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear that a retailer or manufacturer is looking abroad and eyeing cheaper meat. I even hear that one iconic retailer will be selling fresh Christmas turkey this year from Brazil and France.”
Lewins urged buyers to opt for turkey produced under the Quality British Turkey scheme. “QBT provides the highest of welfare and production standards. We really do produce food that the public can trust. But we do need to get that message across, because growth is desperately needed.”