NFU Scotland has said the government supply chain investigations taking place in agricultural sectors such as eggs should be extended to poultrymeat.

The union said that cost pressures placed on poultry farmers were increasingly leading to the risk of empty supermarket shelves.

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As our most recent market report reveals, UK broiler chick placings have been down in each of the first four months of this year, amounting to a cumulative fall of 7.4m on 2022, or nearly two per cent.

Over the longer term, the rolling 12-month total to April is now down 2.6m to 1,175m.

Following an NFUS Poultry Working Group meeting, chair Robert Thompson said: “While the UK Government has already announced an investigation into eggs, where failure of the retailers to pay a fair price saw production fall and empty shelves appear, a similar investigation is urgently required for poultrymeat as a similar picture is rapidly emerging.

Numbers down

“So far, Scotland has not cut back on the numbers of birds being reared, but at a UK level, numbers are significantly down.

“Some units in England are sitting empty, and with the growing market uncertainty, some are moving processors to try and get a better deal.

“Retailers have left rearers and processors on very tight margins for some time, but the situation grows worse.

Energy costs

“Chicken feed prices may have eased from the extreme highs seen last year, but all the utilities and operation costs have soared, and the UK Government has failed to offer chicken producers the highest level of relief available on energy costs despite repeated requests.

“Scotland’s production has already changed significantly. We have only one major chicken processing site and chicken production in Scotland has fallen from a peak of four million chickens per week in the mid-1980s to less than one million per week now.

“Retailers need to step up to the mark and deliver a fair share of profitability to all parts of the chain. A price increase back to the farmgate of around 20p per kilogram is needed now or empty shelves will become a reality.

“Retailers failed to take heed when we warned them about egg shortages. They have an opportunity to avoid repeating that mistake by delivering a fair price on chicken back to farmers.”