BBQ chicken© Rex

Poultry industry confidence has been knocked by a decline in exports, according to the latest survey from the British Poultry Council.

Unlike six months ago, when confidence was riding high off the back of lower feed and fuel costs, 15% of the companies surveyed say they now feel less optimistic about the future of the sector, with 23% saying it feels “about the same”.

In particular, 23% said they had seen a decline in sales to traders normally destined for export, and this picture is expected to be repeated over the next six months.

The avian influenza situation has definitely played a part, with a number of countries closing their borders, despite the fact the disease was quickly contained.

See also: Poultry companies enjoy confidence boost

The strength of sterling has also undermined the UK’s export competitiveness to some destinations, while key market, South Africa, has recently introduced duties on imports of chicken bone in cuts from the UK, set at 12% for Moy Park, 2 Sisters and Amber Foods, and 31% for other players.

BPC chief executive Andrew Large said: “The reported decline in export trade is a matter for concern and it throws into sharp relief the need for the UK to regain its avian influenza disease-free status as quickly as possible.”

Despite this, the domestic market remains buoyant, and over the last six months 46% of respondents have seen an increase in sales to retail customers. This is forecast to continue, with 62% believing they will sell more to retailers over the next six months, and 38% increasing sales to food service customers.

Respondents to the survey also ranked the most important BPC policy priority areas as:

  1. Reducing the presence of campylobacter
  2. Enhancing the reputation of the British poultry industry and raising awareness of its economic and social contribution
  3. Minimising the impact of legalisation
  4. Supporting trade
  5. Working on changes to the EU meat inspection regime.

“This survey shows that both the industry and individual members companies continue to have confidence in their futures,” said Mr Large. “The priority placed on campylobacter reduction in this survey is indicative of the very real efforts that members are making to reduce the prevalence of campylobacter in chicken.”