Nearly a fifth of Irish poultry farmers recently surveyed are likely to leave the poultry industry while more than a third plan on reducing bird numbers to combat increases in farm input costs.
The Irish Farmers Journal has reported that 18% of the 57 poultry farmers who took part in the survey plan to leave the sector this year, which will put a dent in the 16.5 million birds recorded in Ireland in 2020.
It is likely to be the first major fall in bird numbers for many years. In the decade between 2010 and 2020, bird numbers rose by nearly 51%.
The survey found that the main contributor to rising input costs for poultry prices is energy prices. More than half (51%) say they have seen energy costs increase by more than 50% this year with 6% saying they have more than doubled. The majority (58%) have seen farm energy costs increase between 30% and 79%.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) poultry committee has been demanding that retailers stop ignoring calls for price increases and are calling for a Food Ombudsperson with statutory powers of enforcement to control the power of supermarkets. The IFA says a small number of retailers have reduced the viability of Irish poultry farmers.
Farm assured A Bord Bia 2kg whole chicken is retailing at €4.50/kg in discount retailers, which is not enough to pay sufficiently for transport, packaging, processing, and feed costs for growing the birds.
And the egg sector has also suffered due to soaring feed costs putting downward pressure on margins, but at least some of the costs have been partially covered by processors.
In response, the Irish government has said a bill to establish a new Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri Food Supply Chain is on the cards.
Tim Cullinan, IFA president, said the Office must have full powers of investigation and be able to compel actors in the chain to provide them with real data and back-up documentation: “This Office will be crucial in ensuring a fair share of the consumer euro goes to farmers, and in regulating unfair trading practices. If it does not ensure a viable price for farmers for their work and investment, then we will see more farmers in horticulture, potatoes, and the pig and poultry sectors go out of business.”