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UK Broiler Farmers Encouraged to Invest Now

by 5m Editor
18 September 2009, at 10:02a.m.

UK - Following a recent survey, the National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on broiler producers to invest in new poultry houses.

The NFU is urging 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 of British Chicken.

The NFU Housing Age Survey has highlighted a lack of capital investment due to poor returns over the past 10 years.

The latest poll was prompted by an NFU member commissioned Savills report earlier this year, which focused on the financial sustainability of the UK broiler sector. It concluded profit from rearing chicken for meat production was not sufficient to allow for reinvestment. To test this theory the NFU, and farmer member Kinsey Hern conducted the survey of farmers to gauge the level of capital investment in recent years.

The survey of chicken meat farmers asked them to provide information on the number of sheds they used to rear chickens, their size and age. Data collected from 1,572 houses with a combined area of over 2.2 million square metres growing space, which represents approximately 35 per cent of the industry, revealed:

  • a mere eight per cent of housing has been built in the past 10 years
  • 60 per cent of broiler houses over 20 years old, and
  • the average age of a broiler house in the UK is 24 years.

Charles Bourns, NFU poultry board chairman, said: "I would like to thank all those producers who took part in this survey which 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 ten 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 and harder for farmers because of complex planning rules, environmental regulation, the loss of tax allowances and diminishing margins. Poultry meat is more important now than it's ever been. Chicken is easy to prepare, healthy and tastes great. As pressures on food supplied continue to build, it's critical the UK has a fit for purpose and efficient farming industry. To overlook this now will be a huge mistake.

"A strong industry in the 1990s and Government grants in the 1970s helped build much of our production capacity. The loss of agricultural buildings tax allowance, delays with the planning process and stricter controls are all factors hampering the development of a modern, efficient industry. What we need now is a clear understanding from our customers, and from Government, that they have a role to play in helping us grow for the future. This will be critical to UK food security."

NFU member and Herefordshire producer, Kinsey Hern, who was instrumental in getting the survey off the ground said: "We had a remarkable response to the survey and I'd like to thank my fellow farmers. It gave us an even geographical spread across the country and incorporated growers or growing space for all the chicken processing companies.

"There has been some positive financial movement in recent months although the uplift has in no way gone far enough to stimulate effective investment in the industry. It's now time 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 Great British chicken."