CHRISTMAS is fast approaching, and seasonal turkey producers will be gearing up to serve customers in a year that could see wide-ranging restrictions placed on social activity.

As it stands, UK law only permits gatherings of six or fewer and vast swathes of the country are in ‘local lockdown’ preventing different households from socialising together at all.

See also: ‘Rule of six’ unlikely to dampen Christmas turkey demand

It is impossible to predict what will be happening in the middle of December, but there are things that farmers can do now to manage risks and aim to maximise returns where possible. The recent NFU Autumn turkey marketing meeting offered some pointers.

Price birds carefully

The NFU compiles an annual table of costings for producing a turkey and compares the figures with a year earlier. While every business is different, it offers farmers a benchmark and a tool they can use when negotiating prices with butchers, for example.

This year feed costs, which are based on a bagged spot price taken in August, were up 10.05% to £11.54/bird.

For Farmers’ Will Foote said that normally the UK has a net surplus of wheat, so sets prices at a point where it will be attractive for export. This year, however, poor growing conditions mean the UK will be a net importer, and prices have risen as a result.

Labour costs also drove up how much farmers have to pay for plucking and evisceration – both up 6.2%.

Overall, the cost of production has been put at £37.12, compared with £35.38 – just under 5% higher this year than in 2019.

Costs components20192020% change year on year
Feed costs (a)£10.49£11.5410.05%
Farming costs (b)£3.64£3.711.92%
Packaging costs (c)£1.48£1.480.00%
Distribution costs£0.85£0.872.35%
Overheads (d)£8.87£9.031.80%
Waste removal£0.04£0.040.00%
TOTAL TURKEY£35.38£37.124.92%
Source: NFU

Use social media for marketing

The average Brit spends up to three hours a day on social media, 45% of the population is on it – and half of them are baby boomers, the target market for seasonal turkey producers, Paul Kelly said.

So getting your message across through these new mediums is crucial, he said. “People like to feel like they are buying from someone they know,” he added, and social media helps to create that connection.

The NFU is also encouraging the use of social networks to drive consumers to buy British, with the #buymyturkey hashtag.

This activity centres around 4 December, when there will be a big push across the union’s channels.

Retail will be different this year

Close to five million people spend Christmas abroad in a normal year, and they tend to be wealthier consumers, something that could be a benefit for the premium seasonal turkey market, Mr Kelly said.

Supermarkets have cut orders of turkeys this year, with poult placings lower over the summer, meaning there could be a shortage in supermarkets.

The likely economic turmoil created by covid-19 will make it more likely that retailers will focus on value offerings, rather than premium.

While this year is like no other in many ways, the NFU’s Aimee Mahony said in 2019 fresh turkey sales at retail dropped -0.3% in volume and -2.2% in value, according to Kantar data.