Broiler production remains constant at around 2 million broilers every week. Demand for poultry has gained from the shift away from foodservice towards the main retailers in 2020 due to Covid restrictions. This demand has led to increased demand from retailers, to the countries three broiler processors, but unfortunately price sensitivity has not seen this increased demand be transformed into increased production or improved chicken wholesale prices as yet. The IFA Poultry Committee will undertake a mission to engage with all retailer players and processors to attempt to pressurise the market to transform this increased consumer demand into actual increased throughput and margins for broiler farmers.
Following 14 confirmed outbreaks of LPAI, in the Co Monaghan region, circa 550,000 laying hens were culled in March-May 2020. This left a shortfall of eggs on the Irish market. The increase in retail demand combined with this shortfall has created a perfect storm in the table egg market. The main egg packers are importing Northern Irish eggs to cover the shortfall of Irish eggs. Imported eggs that met a similar quality assurance standard as the Bord Bia Sustainable Egg Assurance Scheme (SEAS), are allowed to temporarily be imported and packed by Bord Bia approved egg packers in order to hold retail markets.
The IFA Egg Committee, part of the IFA Poultry Committee, has a job of work to carry out in the immediate weeks to ensure that all Irish retailers reaffirm their 100% commitment to Bord Bia Quality Assured eggs as soon as possible.
Egg Price Campaign
IFA has started a campaign to get all processors to pay an increased egg price to the supply chain, and ultimately back to farmers, to cover the increased risks the entire industry carries, especially egg farmers. IFA will lead this campaign and coordinate farmer–retailer meetings and egg packer meetings in order to ensure the risks are recognised financially by the supply chain. Egg farmers have not received any significant increase in their egg price for over 15 years, and despite gains in genetic and management efficiency, margins are being eroded away to the point of unsustainability.
Poultry Working Group
The Poultry Working Group (PWG) is an industry group which was set up to deal with the impending disastrous situation of Low Pathogenic Avian Infleunza (LPAI) and its effect on the Irish poultry sector in 2020. While the loss of over 500,000 poultry birds to LPAI in March-May of 2020 was a hammer blow to a small but very important reginal agriculture sector which has proven itself to be economically viable with very limited national or EU financial supports. This newly formed group, of which IFA is a member, represented by IFA Poultry Chairman, Andy Boylan, has been proactive in providing industry sourced funding to assist in tackling LPAI outbreaks in a timely manner. Broiler groups contributed to this fund which provided financial assistance to farmers to cull LPAI positive flocks, to prevent the disease spreading further.
PWG Disease Compensation Fund Proposals
The PWG has made a draft proposal to tackle further disease incidents such as LPAI in the future. It involved setting up a levy, to create a fund, which would be used to cover losses and expenses associated with certain disease outbreaks in the commercial poultry sector. Then proposal is based on international research and similar systems are operated across mainland Europe. These proposals will involve contributions from farmers and must be fully explained and discussed with all those vested interested before moving forward. Ongoing dialogue on the proposal are underway between the PWG and farmers presently.
PWG Funded Industry Economic Report
During a funding call to industry stakeholders, the PWG decided to request funding for an economic report on the poultry sector. Unlike the Irish beef and dairy sector, information is not readily available as to the overall contribution that the poultry sector makes to the national economy, in terms of employment and output. While relatively small in terms of numbers of farmers in the sector, it is a very viable sector with opportunities for future growth. The PWG commissioned Professor of Economics from UCC, Thia Hennessey to compile the report. This is due to be launched in mid-September and will highlight the importance, especially in certain regions of Ireland, of our most undervalued agricultural sector.