Poultry industry leaders and analysts say that some producers have a questionable future, after global poultry prices have taken a dive this year as fears about bird flu reduce demand.
Gordon Butland, president of Global Poultry Strategies, says he has never seen such widespread financial losses around the world. While Butland did not provide any specific figures, he said that a significant imbalance had been created by the dual forces of bird flu and overoptimistic production forecasts from Brazil and the United States.
The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has killed more than 120 people, mostly in Asia, since late 2003. In spite of the fact that transmission of the virus to humans has not been linked to consumption of poultry, demand has still fallen significantly in some areas.
“The cost of this crisis is huge…It will be difficult for some companies in the sector to rise above [it],” said Guy Odri, general manager of French poultry company Doux Group Worldwide.
Odri said the industry’s problems had made it difficult for European companies to make investments in mechanisation which will reduce labour costs and keep the companies competitive.
Trefor Campbell, managing director of Northern Ireland poultry producer Moy Park Ltd said the European industry could compete on a level playing field with mechanisation reducing any benefit competitors obtained from lower cost labour.