June 13, 2023
Scotland poultry industry calls for UK government to extend supply chain investigations to chicken
National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland's Poultry Working Group is urging the UK government to expand its examination of food supply chains to include chicken as concerns grow over the risk of empty store shelves, NFU Scotland reported.
The union said lack of profitability in chicken production has resulted in a sharp decline in the number of birds being raised in the UK, adding that the reluctance of retailers to pay a fair price for chicken has been a driving force behind the reduction in domestic production.
They said that if retailers continue to resist fair pricing, it will increase Scotland's reliance on imported chicken.
Robert Thompson, chairman of the Poultry Working Group, said that there is a need for an urgent investigation into chicken, similar to the ongoing examination of eggs by the UK government.
He highlighted the emerging trend of declining poultry production in the UK, although Scotland has not yet experienced a reduction in bird numbers. Some poultry units in England remain empty, and in the face of market uncertainty, some producers are seeking alternative processing arrangements to secure better deals.
Thompson said the current pricing situation is unsustainable, with chicken now cheaper per kg than it was in the 1970s. Retailers have kept rearers and processors on narrow profit margins for some time, exacerbating the situation.
Although chicken feed prices have eased compared to last year's extreme highs, other operational costs have skyrocketed.
Scotland's poultry production has already undergone significant changes, with only one major chicken processing site remaining. Chicken production in Scotland has dropped from its peak of four million chickens per week in the mid-1980s to less than one million per week currently.
The Poultry Working Group urges retailers to take responsibility and ensure a fair distribution of profitability throughout the supply chain. An immediate price increase of approximately 20p per kg at the farmgate is necessary to avert the potential reality of empty store shelves.
- NFU Scotland