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Overview of This Week's Poultry Industry News

22 March 2012, at 11:54pm

ANALYSIS - There has been a sharp rise in egg prices in the EU, fuelled by both rising feed costs and tight supplies since the ban on conventional battery cages came into effect at the start of the year, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden. Average chicken prices are coming down from their peak in August last year. Australian researchers have announced they are working on a vaccine against necrotic enteritis and the development of allergen–free eggs. Bird flu has been reported in the last week in the Netherlands, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Livestock prices in the EU are up while feed prices are rising. EU feed wheat and corn prices are showing a slight upward trend, although they are still below last year‘s figures, according to the Agriview EU Market Prices for Representative Products report.

From January to February this year, feed wheat prices rose from €180.26 per tonne to €190.69. However, for the same months last year, the prices were €218.38 rising to a peak of €232.06.

Over the last year, the prices slid gradually to reach a low of €171.73 in November last year since when they have been on a gradual increase.

Feed corn prices slipped in August last year but have now started to show a small recovery. In February, they stood at €195.53 per tonne but this is compared to prices in the same month last year of nearly €230.

Feed oat, feed barley and malting barley prices are similar to last year at €188.60, €199.65 and €237.70, respectively.

In the poultry sector, poultry meat prices are coming back toward last year’s prices, having reached a high of €193.51 per 100kg in August last year. In January and February 2012, they were €184.27 and €185.27 compared to €176.44 and €179.33 for the same period a year ago.

Egg prices have soared in the latter half of 2011 and appear to be continuing to rise. Shell egg prices hit €150.72 per 100kg in February, having risen from €137.49 in January. The prices in January and February 2011 were €105.93 and €111.37.

The higher prices for the livestock and poultry sector can largely be attributed to high feed prices over the last year although the rapid rise in egg prices could also be the result of the changes to the regulations and the ban on battery cages and the insistence on enriched cages for laying hens, reducing the amount of product on the market. The change in regulations has also been seen by the EU Commission poultry forecasting group as a major reason for rising egg prices.

The EU is also predicting a drop in consumption, which is also likely to have a knock–on effect on egg prices. Germany, France and Hungary are predicting an increase this year, but the big egg producers in Spain, the UK, Italy and the Netherlands are forecasting decreases.

With most feed prices now under those of last year, there could be repercussions for the livestock and poultry sectors stabilising prices, but this could take some time to come through.

A shortage of eggs in Europe is causing major problems for the food industry. European Union rules to improve the conditions of battery hens are being blamed for record egg prices in some member states, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia. That has led to ‘alarming shortages’ of eggs and egg-based products.

One in every four UK broilers is now reared in an ‘alternative’ system. Indoor assured (‘standard‘) production now accounts for 72 per cent of the UK broiler market. Higher welfare systems now have an 18 per cent share of that market, free–range, eight per cent and organic production, two per cent.

Poultry CRC in Australia is seeking to produce an effective vaccine against necrotic enteritis from a number of possible vaccine formulations. If successful, this work will bring to fruition earlier CRC research into the causes of the disease, and the nature of its causative agent, the bacterium, Clostridium perfringens.

Australian researchers are also working on developing allergy-free eggs to eat and be used in vaccines.

In bird flu news in the last week, there has been an outbreak of subclinical low-pathogenic H5N2 bird flu in the south of the Netherlands, which led to the slaughter of the whole 44,500–bird turkey flock. There have also been outbreaks of both the high– and low–pathogenic forms of the disease in Taiwan and H5N1 flu has been reported on farms in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.