The UK broiler sector staged a partial recovery in June after three months of falling chick numbers.
Placings of day-olds rose by half a million a week in June compared with the previous month, reaching their highest level since the UK lockdown began at the end of March (see chart).
See also: Poultry feed prices remain on even keel
But despite this upturn, the broiler industry has suffered a massive setback in 2020, and chick numbers are still lagging well behind the figures for previous years. Weekly placings in June were still running 400,000 a week behind the same month of last year.
Overall during the three months of the lockdown, nearly five million fewer chicks were placed than in 2019, which was itself a year of consolidation for the UK broiler sector.
Over the two years since 2018, chick placings in the second quarter have fallen by 11m, or around 4%.
By comparison, before the problems set in, the UK industry had been on course for a year of renewed expansion, with placings in the first quarter up by over three million on the previous Jan-Feb record in 2018.
The turkey industry has weathered the storm a little better. Although poult placings hit a low point in May, the total of day-olds placed in the first six months of this year was 100,000 higher than the first half of last year.
One worrying note, though, is the June figure itself which showed a fall of 40,000 day-olds compared with last year.
This month represents the first and usually lowest of the four-month seasonal peak, and at this early stage before Christmas is mainly for the larger catering-sized birds that need longer to grow.
Figures in the coming three months should give better indications of the prevailing confidence for the Christmas retail trade.
One unusual development from the early part of the year, before the current emergency took hold, was a substantial decline in net imports of poultrymeat revealed in the latest Defra figures.
A rise in output and a drop in demand squeezed out imports and was accompanied by an increase in exports.
This narrowed the gap between output and consumption to the lowest level seen for many years (see chart).