Avian influenza sees chickenmeat exports plunge 19%

New figures show the extent that UK chicken exports are being hit by avian influenza and the Russian import ban.

About £35m was knocked off the value of chickenmeat exports in the first half of 2015 compared with the same period last year, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

This was a drop of 19% in value terms and took UK exports to £148m.

See also: Poultry sector increases contribution to British economy

The British Poultry Council said avian influenza was the main factor, with key markets including South Africa, South Korea and West African countries closing their borders to UK chickenmeat.

Exports had been positive until November last year when the first highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak occurred on a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire.

As a result of border closures, much of the chickenmeat normally destined for abroad had been brought back on to the domestic market.

This had been compounded further by Russia’s ban on European food imports in response to the political situation in Ukraine.

While the extra volume had dampened prices paid to processors, the BPC said it had not seen any evidence of this squeeze being passed down to producers.

However, the price for henmeat had been severely affected and most egg and broiler breeder producers were making little to no money on it.

The situation is expected to improve in October when South Africa, which was the UK’s biggest chickenmeat export market before the ban (more than 40,000t/year imported), is due to reopen its borders.

Overall UK food and drink exports fell by £300m to £6bn in the same period, mainly due to currency factors, but chickenmeat was among the hardest hit.

Sterling has risen 15% over the past two years against a number of currencies, with €1 buying £0.71 now compared with £0.86 in August 2013.

The FDF’s economics and commercial services director, Steve Barnes, said:

“Food and drink has been bucking the trend when it comes to exports for years, and the value of the sector’s exports is still declining less than UK exports overall.

“However, we are starting to see the negative effect of exchange rates, particularly in the eurozone, which remains the key destination for UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports.”