22 December 2000

Turkeys not trotting out in 99 style

By James Garner

FARMERS who increased turkey numbers this year on the back of last seasons good prices may find themselves left with a surplus as they struggle to sell extra numbers.

Twelve months ago the market was buoyant with many farmers reporting best sales ever. This years sales appear to be dogged by oversupply and foreign competition.

Auction prices are down. But with Chelford Markets Roy Waller blaming French and Italian imports for last weeks 20p/lb drop "across the board". Even 300 dressed turkeys in the market struggled to £1/lb last week.

He expects the trade to stay at this level, with "handy weight" birds below 14/lb making 75-80p/lb, and higher weights trading at 40-45p/lb.

Farmers finding their order books short of sales are unlikely to find buoyant prices in the market. Auctioneer Fabian Eagle confirms pre-Christmas trade is so far down on last year.

Last weeks prices in Swaffham Market, Norfolk, were hit by local media hysteria, says Mr Eagle. Local TV coverage of alleged cruelty on Bernard Matthews turkey sites hit prices and demand, with many butchers wary of buying forward.

Consequently, turkey prices sunk to 50-60p/kg for 14-16lb birds, which are in large supply. Best turkeys were making £1.10/lb, he adds.

Geese seem to be experiencing a mixed trade. Some 14lb and under, rough-legged geese were trading at £1/lb with best sorts making £1.50-1.60/lb at Swaffham, says Mr Eagle. But at Chelford, dressed geese were in oversupply and traded at £1.50/lb, compared with £2-2.50/lb last year.

However, British Goose Producers Association chairman John Adlard says oven-ready geese are selling well, making £2.70/lb. This year, he predicts 290,000 geese will be sold for Christmas, benefiting from their outside, free-range image.

Welfare marketing also seems to be helping the Traditional Farmfresh Turkeys Association whose members only sell free range birds.

Its president Tom Copas, says that prices have held up on its 100,000 birds with most oven-ready Norfolk Bronze turkeys trading at £3/lb.

"Extra cost is mainly through labour costs as all our turkeys have to be dry-plucked by hand, which costs £2.50/bird."

POULTRY MARKET

&#8226 Under pressure.

&#8226 Over supply.

&#8226 Imports high.

POULTRYMARKET

&#8226 Under pressure.

&#8226 Over supply.

&#8226 Imports high.