The NFU has called on the government and partners in the supply chain to recognise the need for significant investment by chicken farmers to ensure a sustainable, long-term supply, therefore avoiding future shortages of fresh chicken.
This call comes on the back of a new survey published at today’s (16 September) Chicken 2009 conference at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. It showed that 60% of broiler houses are more than 20 years old and in need of replacement. Only 8% of housing has been built in the past 10 years, making the average age of a broiler house of 24 years.
Charles Bourns, NFU poultry board chairman, said: “This survey has confirmed our fears – poor financial returns are having a direct impact on the ability of poultry farmers to expand production in line with a growing population or maintain it at current levels.
“Every type of farmer is suffering in the same way – the money available after feed, energy, chick and other costs are paid, has been little more than enough to survive, for at least the past 10 years.
“What we need is for government, the supply chain, and the public to recognise that this industry needs to invest and soon. It is getting harder for farmers because of complex planning rules, environmental regulations, the loss of tax allowances and diminishing margins.
He highlighted that a strong industry in the 1990s and government grants in the 1970s helped build much of the UK production capacity.
NFU member and Herefordshire producer Kinsey Hern, who was instrumental in getting the survey off the ground, added: “It’s time now for the whole supply chain to recognise the cost implications of investing in UK broiler chicken production. More money needs to filter through to the farmers so they can keep pace with the growing demand for quality, British chicken.”
The survey included data collected from 1572 houses with a combined area of more than 2.2m sq m growing space, which represents about 35% of the industry.