2010: Poultry sector has a positive future according to NFU

At the start of a new decade, we hear from four key industry leaders what they believe will be the main issues affecting poultry producers in the coming year. In this third installment, we hear from NFU chief poultry adviser Rob Newbery



 

In 2010 the fortunes of the poultry industry will most certainly follow the fortunes of the economy. Good or bad, the NFU will continue to fight for our members’ interest, in Westminster, Brussels and throughout the regions of England and Wales.

Last year saw exchange rates, interest rates and consumer trends all act strongly in favour of the poultry sector. The weak pound has made UK-produced poultrymeat and eggs competitive relative to imports, favourable interest rates helped some with borrowing and reinvestment, and consumers have opted for old favourites – poultrymeat and eggs, as they tighten their belts.

In 2010 major challenges could be the strengthening of sterling, leading to more imports, or potentially deflation in the economy, undermining recent investment made by producers this year.

A further change many of us expect will be in government. With an election due in May, we can expect to be left with a severely weakened labour government with a negligible majority incapable of effective governance, or a new Conservative government and potentially a clean sweep of policy and objectives. Either way, I cannot see us escaping the spectre of animal health cost and responsibility sharing.

The NFU still believe we first need a review of existing activities, followed by the swift enactment of responsibility sharing with industry. This we feel will negate or reduce the need to transfer costs to an industry that cannot afford to carry historic inefficiencies.

Looking at the bigger picture, beyond recessions or changes of government I think we have some great times ahead. Environmental groups believe the population should eat less meat. However, the efficient feed conversion of poultry means its greenhouse gas footprint is relatively low. So rather than going meat-free, consumers can reduce their greenhouse gas footprint by eating more quality British poultrymeat and eggs.

Some people I speak to believe the environmental benefits of intensive production, versus the welfare benefits of free range place the poultry industry in a paradoxical situation. Personally I don’t see a problem. I think the future will see a greater use of poultrymeat and eggs in our diets, which will only stimulate the need for greater diversity and consumer choice.

| Tomorrow we hear from Peter Bradnock, chief executive of The British Poultry Council.

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