APRIL saw a sharp reversal in the fortunes for the UK broiler sector, when day-old chick placings fell to their lowest level for three years.

The first month of the UK’s lockdown brought a one per cent cut back in commercial chick numbers compared with the same period of 2019.

This is relatively small in itself, but it comes after four months in which the UK broiler industry was expanding again, after nearly a whole year of contraction in 2019 (see chart, below).

During the first quarter of this year, average chick numbers had risen by nearly 4% on the first three months of 2019.

It means that in April, the industry effectively suffered an overall setback amounting to 5%, at a time when fresh poultry was one of those categories that were being stripped off the shelves by panicking consumers.

The industry ran into significant difficulties matching contracted production to the change in demand.

The loss of the entire catering sector, with its specific requirements, was replaced by a surge in retail demand which has its demand profile.

The coming months will reveal how adept the industry has been at adapting to the new normal in the food industry.

Poultry output in April, which reflects production decisions made weeks earlier, continued on its rising trend and was back to record levels for chicken (see chart).