IN a complete reversal of the trend previously reported since the start of the year, the UK broiler sector is now showing substantial cutbacks after Defra reviewed its placings figures going back to last October.
Instead of expansion, the revised figures now show reductions in every month this year to date.
Before these revisions, the Defra chick survey had been showing an overall increase in birds placed during the first quarter by 20m day-olds, when compared with the same period in 2021, an average rise of 6% over the three months.
The new data suggests a decline of 4m chicks year-on-year for the first quarter, an average drop of 1.3%.
This decline accelerates in the latest data for April, which is down 7.8m in a single month compared with a year earlier, a fall of 6.7%.
So, far from showing a confident start to the year, broiler chick placings reflect both the egg and turkey sectors, where chick numbers are also well down.
Much depends on the direction the figures take in the months to come.
Although down on last year, the overall total number of chicks placed up to and including April is still level with the same period in 2020, and up by nearly 10m on pre-pandemic 2019.
However, if the sharper downturn seen in April marks the start of a trend, the sector could see a significant setback as the year progresses.
For turkeys, poult placings fell again in April, by 13% or 160,000 compared with the same month last year. This means that total placings in the first four months of this year were down 8%, or 350,000 overall.
A Defra spokesperson said: “The number of eggs set and chicks placed each month are based on survey responses from hatcheries across the UK.
“This month, we were able to replace estimated data with actual data for some of these hatcheries. These changes go back as far as October 2021, with some months increasing and others decreasing
“Although the revisions have changed the published numbers, it is worth noting that the month on month percentage changes have remained largely similar.”