SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED poultry processors are facing huge surpluses of chicken – despite record demand from retailers – because their usual markets have closed.
With restaurants, catering companies and wholesalers mostly shut in late March because of the coronavirus crisis, there is a potential nationwide surplus of up to two million birds a week.
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Birds are continually placed on farm to meet ongoing weekly demand, and there are fears that the surpluses could overwhelm the independent poultrymeat sector.
Despite efforts, logistics, retailer accreditation rules and the specification of birds means that many cannot be transferred into other outlets, like supermarkets.
In light of the uncertainty, many processors have cut orders from farms, sparking fears over businesses’ financial health in the long run and a shortage of speciality poultrymeat in four-to-six weeks.
A major sticking point is understood to be British Retail Consortium accreditation, according to the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers.
It called for government intervention to manage the market disruption, suggesting that the surplus could be offered to vulnerable people via the food parcel scheme.
Soanes Poultry managing director Nigel Upson told Poultry.Network that, following ‘lockdown’, many of the intermediaries that bought whole birds for cutting had closed their doors.
The business faced a “scary” few days as the prospect of an industry-wide two-million bird surplus emerged – all while major supermarkets struggled to get hold of enough chicken.
Mr Upson said that their customers had now began to operate again, though were tending to take cut breast fillets, leaving a surplus of legs that the firm was having to place in cold storage.
The uncertainty was leading to most in the sector cutting back chick placings by 30-50%, he suggested, warning that in four-to-five weeks’ time the surplus faced today could become a shortage.
“Confidence to place chicken knowing that the government is prepared to buy up surpluses would make a huge difference,” Mr Upson added.