The Irish Poultry industry has had significant increases in input costs on farms and for processing plants and egg packers. Inflation is at a 15-year high and the price of chicken and eggs has altered little to reflect this to date. Additional costs associated with all the challenges that both Brexit and Covid-19 continue to place on the sector, from the farmers yard right through to delivery to central distribution depots need to be recouped from the food chain.
The increase in commodity grain and protein feed costs has resulted in a squeeze on margins that has not been recouped through the food chain. In order for Irish poultry farmers to get justified increases in their payment terms this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The need for a Food Ombudsperson with statutory powers of enforcement is critical to controlling the power of a small number of retailers that have reduced the viability of Irish poultry farmers. A Bord Bia quality assured 2kg whole chicken retails at €4.50 c/kg in discount retailers. This is not enough to pay sufficiently for all the transport, packaging, processing and most importantly the farmer for growing this chicken.
The egg market continues to be in over supply for certain grade classes. The importation of eggs continued until March 2021 however the IFA worked and engaged with Bord Bia to ensure that only eggs taken out of production were allowed to be imported this year and this process is controlled. This has lessened the importation of eggs for the later part of 2021 and indeed 2022 (due to Avian Influenzas outbreaks).
Like other sectors the increase in input costs has been heavily felt. Feed costs have soared for egg producers, putting a downward pressure on margins, but these costs are partially covered by the processers, (egg packer) in some cases. Many other cost increases are also causing problems namely replacement birds, electricity, labour etc.
The IFA Poultry Committee has been working closely with the President, Tim Cullinan, and Retail Executive (former Poultry Executive), Robert Malone, to highlight the increase in input costs incurred by Poultry producers of meat and eggs and the sheer urgency of immediate price recovery for producers. The retail price of eggs has seen some upward movement in recent days in some outlets and continuous efforts are ongoing to ensure this increase is passed back to farmers. The IFA are engaging with retailers on an ongoing basis and have met with numerous retailers over the past number of weeks on the issues for the poultry sector, but also pigmeat, and horticulture. The practice of selling product below the cost of production is devaluing product and creating an expectation among consumers which is completely unsustainable.
High Pathogenic Avian Influenza
HPAI has been a major problem this year especially in Monaghan/Cavan where a large number of flocks have been affected. The first outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza subtype H5N1 (HPAI H5N1) in poultry in Ireland was confirmed on November 20, 2021. Between November 20, 2021 and December 20, 2021 six outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 were confirmed in poultry flocks in Ireland. As a result, restriction zones consisting of a 3km minimum radius Protection Zone and a 10km minimum radius Surveillance Zone were put in place. Following appropriate disease control measures, and in accordance with EU and national legislation, all restriction zones have now been removed. Avian Influenza continues to be reported in wild birds across Ireland. It is essential to keep all poultry confined away from access to wild birds and implement appropriate biosecurity measures to prevent spread of disease from the wild bird population to Ireland’s poultry flocks. It is paramount that strict biosecurity measures are implemented on all farms and for individual sheds.