Global production of broilers has doubled in the past 15 years and is predicted to reach 70.5m tonnes in 2008. But there were signs that the US was easing its foot off the broiler accelerator, reported Nick Shaw of Global Meat Supply in the Sun Valley Europe group.

The US remained the world’s top producer, on 16m tonnes, followed by China on 10.4m, Brazil on 10m and EU27 with 8m. Global growth isset to continue at about 3% a year.

Economist David Harvey at the US Department of Agriculture told delegates that minimal growth in US chickens was expected in the first half of 2009 on the domestic front due to higher grain and energy prices and a mass of pigmeat that would keep production at 16.7m tonnes in 2009, just above 2008.

High feed and energy costs would pressurise the US industry over the next several years as they would throughout the world and industries would be weakened by minimal or little growth in the domestic economy. Poultry prices would be expected to rise as production growth slowed towards the end of 2008.

In contrast, exports was the one positive factor for the US poultry­meat sector, at 2.7m tonnes, up 4% on 2007, with record figures expected in 2009.

“The biggest factor affecting US poultry exports is the weakness of the US dollar, making our poultry more competitive on the world market,” said Mr Harvey.

Imports of broiler meat have been minimal over the years, but this could change after a free-trade agreement with Chile which allowed a two-way trade in poultry products.