POULTRYMEAT output achieved a small increase during 2020, despite problems faced by the sector during the year.

Overall production of chicken, turkey, ducks and spent hens reached 1.92 million tonnes, up one per cent on the year before.

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Chicken output rose by 16,000t and turkey by 6,700t.

It follows several years of steady growth for the sector, which was hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The increase in broiler output was achieved against a backdrop of falling chick placings once the first lockdown commenced in late March.

This is mainly because in practical terms, allowing for growing time, the fall in placings had no impact on production until nearly halfway through the year.

Strong expansion

Until that point, the industry had been expanding strongly.

Additionally, there was a brief resurgence in chick placings in July, which boosted production in September.

But the picture on day-old placings has become clouded by a major revision of the hatcheries survey that was introduced in the final two months of last year.

Bigger than thought

According to Defra, the review was carried out to include ‘additional participants’, and reveals that the industry is a lot bigger than previously thought.

It has added about 9% to the numbers of chicks recorded initially in every month.

However, the figures have only been reviewed and updated as far back as January 2020, so comparing the new monthly figures with previous years (2019 and earlier) is impractical.

Record figure

The new survey puts total chick placings for the year at 1,168 million, which is inevitably a record figure.

Alternatively, figures for the old survey were published up to October.

These can be extrapolated alongside the new data to give a strong indication of the year-on-year changes in the final two months of the year.

These calculations suggest that commercial chick placings continued falling in November and December, by 2.1% and 0.9% respectively compared with a year earlier.

On this basis, the picture for the year as a whole is that there was a marginal fall in day-old chicks placed in 2020 against 2019, of around 0.5% to 1,076 million.