free range broilers

Egg and poultrymeat producers continue to be the most optimistic in UK agriculture, having reported a year of steady or increasing profits, and being the most confident in their short- and medium-term prospects.

Results from the latest NFU Confidence survey – the sixth in the annual series –  show 82% of poultry producers said their profits had either been maintained or increased in 2015.

This was in stark contrast to the dairy, arable and livestock sectors, where 70%, 63% and 46% respectively reported a year of declining profits.

See also: Farmers’ biggest concerns for 2016 revealed

Almost 20% of dairy farmers said their businesses were in the red and might not survive. Falling output prices and increased red tape were the main bugbears.

As for future prospects, poultry producers recorded a confidence index score of +34 for the short term (one year) and +32 for the medium term (three years).

This compared with -24 for dairy, -23 for arable and -6 for beef and sheep. “It was the highest of all sectors, with little difference between broiler and egg producers,” said a spokeswoman.

Poultry is also leading the way with investment intentions, with many producers looking to spend on buildings, skills and training, and energy efficiency.

The more buoyant picture in poultry has encouraged many producers from other parts of farming to look at investing in the sector.

British Poultry Council chairman John Reed recently told Poultry World he was concerned by the number of farmers applying for planning permission for poultry sheds without even having a contract with a processor in place.

Egg packers too have feared that the influx of new entrants to the free-range sector, which has helped push the national laying flock to more than 36m birds, might trigger a price collapse in 2016.