Wednesday, 24 Apr 2024

Will chicken vanish if supermarkets 'refuse to pay farmers enough'?

Will chicken vanish from our shops as supermarkets ‘refuse to pay farmers enough to cover soaring costs’?

  • Fears have been raised that customers might see empty shelves of chicken 

Shoppers and fast food fans face a shortage of home produced chicken amid claims supermarkets are refusing to pay farmers enough to cover soaring costs.

The empty shelves and rationing of eggs and vegetables that was seen in recent months is likely to be repeated for many fresh British chicken products, according to experts at the British Poultry Council (BPC).

It pointed to official figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which measures the output of farmers producing the meat we will be eating in the coming months.

These put the figure at 20.8 million units a week through February, which is down from 26.8 million a week in the same month last year – a fall of more than 22 per cent.

Chicken accounts for around half of the meat eaten by families in the UK, so a fall in production could have a serious impact.

Shoppers and fast food fans face a shortage of home produced chicken amid claims supermarkets are refusing to pay farmers enough to cover soaring costs

Costs have been driven up by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has increased the price of feed, energy and transport. At the same time, the industry is blighted by labour shortages. The National Farmers’ Union has accused supermarkets of failing to pay farmers a fair price for their produce, leading to cutbacks and shortages.

The BPC echoed these concerns, saying: ‘Year on year increases in production costs are at 18 per cent and rising, and members aren’t seeing the returns despite the price of fresh chicken increasing 12.5 per cent over the same period.

‘It is simple – costs are outpacing what is being paid by supermarkets.’

Andrew Opie (pictured), of the British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, said retailers were supporting farmers while ‘also facing additional costs and [were] working incredibly hard to limit price increases for consumers’

The trade group wants the Government to ensure the future of agriculture by requiring supermarkets to pay a fair price for home-produced food.

On the impact of the current crisis, it said: ‘Short-term it means a reduction of British product on shelves, long-term the sector will shrink with the UK becoming reliant on cheap imports.

‘If producers continue to be undermined by price, we will see staple products affected, imports fill shelves, and the eradication of a British success story. We’re closer to the cliff edge than ever.’

Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, said retailers were supporting farmers while ‘also facing additional costs and [were] working incredibly hard to limit price increases for consumers’.

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