By Mike Parker

WITH soya up 35/t on last year, wheat up 15/t and maybe still rising, traditional farm fresh (TFF) turkey farmers face a 10 rise in feed costs this Christmas, according to NFU poultry meat specialist David Taylor.

That was his assessment for members of the Anglian Turkey Association, meeting last month at the Old Anchor, Feering, Essex.

Poult prices were up 12%, labour charges by 4.8% and casual, plucking rate by nearly 10% following the Agricultural Wages Board increase of 6-7%.

After three years of negligible rises and a 2.4% fall in costs in 1998, it was going to cost farmers 10% more in 2001 to produce a 6kg oven ready hen than last year.

According to NFU figures, it cost 2.40/kg to produce a 6kg oven ready TFF hen 10 years ago against 3.03/kg in 2001 – the 3/kg barrier had been broken.

Tanya Copas, chairman of the Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association and sales and marketing chief of the family company Copas Traditional Turkeys, urged producers to go for a selling price that took account of the increase in costs.

“It takes a lot of investment and a lot of hard work to produce TFF turkeys and theres not much fun, so you owe it to yourselves to ask the right price,” she said.

“Remember you are providing the butcher with a valuable service in eviscerating and packaging your birds and saving him all that work.

“Dont try to compete on price; dont try to cut corners but add value and service at every stage of your operation,” was her message.

David Taylor reminded his audience that it had been a poor year for year-round turkey farmers with wholesale prices down 5% in August over the previous year.

Overall, placings to June were also down by 9% and the NFU Christmas poult survey indicated a 3.3% reduction in the 2001 TFF flock.

Tanya Copas pointed out that Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday for the first time in 10 years, which was bad news for those supplying companies who celebrated with TFF birds to their staff on the final day before businesses closed for the holidays.

The final day this year would be Friday, 21 December, four days before Christmas Day and time for keeping problems to occur if storage instructions were not followed.

She had not experienced a Tuesday Christmas in her time in turkeys, but she had heard the Tuesday horror stories and just hoped they wouldnt be repeated in 2001.

An important occasion in the TFF Christmas of Mike and Sue Lindsell (2000 free range turkeys near Saffron Walden, Essex) comes in the last few days of the campaign when they deliver around 60 oven-ready birds to the playground of a secondary school in Bishops Stortford.

Mrs Lindsell, who spoke at 24-hours notice of her farmers wife role, described how the school co-operated in supplying and collecting price list/order forms to the families of the pupils with a deadline for the return of the forms.

Mr Taylor was speaking in Essex as part of a nationwide series of over a dozen NFU turkey marketing meetings that took him as far north as Lancaster, as far west as Herefordshire and as far south as Southampton.

An indication that feed prices are to rise still further comes from the NFU which predicts a 21% fall in this years cereal harvest and a 30% reduction in the wheat crop.