Paul Kelly of Kelly Turkeys had an encouraging message for members of the Anglian Turkey Association, who feared that the credit crunch would have an adverse effect on the premium turkey Christmas market.

Speaking at the ATA’s annual marketing meeting, Mr Kelly highlighted that during a financial crisis in the early 1990s, farmgate sales were barely affected. “It showed most people were not prepared to compromise the festive feast,” he said.

Mr Kelly said the main high street retailers would be increasing premium fresh turkey prices by 15% while there would be a 26% rise in beef and 33% in pork.

“This means ribs of beef will be retailing at about £15/kg, making turkey great value and handing turkey producers the chance to highlight that our turkeys are great value when compared with other meats.” He added that when the economy was going through a bad patch, fewer people ate out on Christmas Day, preferring to eat at home.

His forecast on supermarket retail prices was: Standard fresh £4-4.49/kg; free range £6-6.99/kg; bronze free range £7.49-8.99/kg; organic £8.99-12.99/kg. He also predicted slower growth in joints sales.

In contrast, William Grove Smith of Grove Smith Turkeys, Braintree, believes the price-conscious modern consumer would move to convenient joints, such as crowns, while the whole-bird customers would trade down in the size of the bird.

He believed 10% was a fair lift in prices to cover the cost rises in feed, energy, labour and overheads and his best hope was that the Christmas turkey lunch was still the one meal in the year when people were prepared to splash out regardless.

Poult placings down

The results of the NFU 2008 survey reveal that bird placings are slightly down (3%) on last year, with a downward trend in stag numbers while hens increased.

On prices, a 5kg oven-ready bird will cost 16.1% more to rear this year and for a 10kg oven-ready Bronze stag, the increase is nearer to 20%.

The top three increases were for feed, disposal of offal and other costs such as gas and litter.