COPA-COGECA has said that 20 million chicks a week are not being placed on poultry farms across Europe as the coronavirus crisis dampens demand.
The number is based on all species of poultry. Copa-Cogeca added that it estimated about a billion chickens had not been placed since the beginning of the crisis, prompting fears for the survival of farm businesses.
Despite this, third-country imports are on the rise, according to Charles Bourns, the organisation’s poultry working party chairman.
The group, which represents farmers across Europe, is calling for support and import management.
Mr Bourns said that lockdown had stopped all out-of-home consumption, which accounts for between 20-%40% of production, depending on the member state.
In some cases, the entire supply chain for duck, pigeon or quail has ground to a halt, as it cannot be easily diverted into retail.
Imported poultrymeat is also usually destined for out-of-home consumption, further compounding the issue.
Cold stores across Europe are at full capacity, added Mr Bourns, and poultrymeat prices had dropped a “staggering” 12% over the past seven weeks.
“Should this dynamic continue, many farmers will be forced out of business,” he said.
“This will have a knock-on effect that results in the loss of thousands of jobs in rural areas at a moment when all forecasts indicate that we are heading into a long recession.”
The situation is not just affecting primary producers, but the entire supply chain, he added, with breeder stock, hatcheries and genetics firms all affected.
“In the short term, and to avoid full collapse of the sector and ensure food security, our farmers are asking for support to keep their farms, investments and jobs, so that they can be ready to restart their operations when the demand comes back.
“We can’t afford to wait years for this aid to reach us through complex and confusing bureaucratic channels, we need it now.
“The situation on the ground requires urgent action to be taken.
“At the same time, in the specific case of poultry, private storage aid would be extremely useful for the duration that HoReCa (hotels, restaurant and caterers) is closed.”
“However, in a situation where prices are falling due to oversupply, and while a lot of farms are empty and the actors of the supply chain are not working at full capacity, it is obvious that imports from third countries should be tightly managed according to changes in consumption habits.