Calls have been made for British egg and poultry producers to receive greater support as a quarter could quit the sector due to insufficient returns.
Farmers face an uncertain future without further government support and supply chain reform, a new NFU survey has revealed, published today (12 February).
The survey looked at the impact of the past two years on poultry production and farmers’ intentions over the next two years.
It found that 24% of egg producers and 15% of chicken meat producers were either unlikely or unsure if they would still be producing poultry beyond November 2025.
The main reason cited for this was poor returns, which suggests businesses have not been profitable.
Both egg and chicken meat producers have seen significant increases in production costs over the past two years.
The union's survey also highlighted concerns surrounding the risk of avian influenza, with almost all of egg producers and chicken meat producers raising this issue.
Lack of fairness in the supply chain was also a major worry highlighted by farmers, as was continued high energy prices and cheaper food imports.
The NFU said greater fairness was needed in poultry supply chains, and for farmers to be included in the Energy Intensive Industries scheme.
It added that a long-term strategy from government should be set ahead of any future outbreaks of avian influenza.
Responding to the survey's results, NFU poultry board chair James Mottershead said the sector was under a huge amount of strain.
"Incredibly volatile production costs and the threat of avian influenza have put producers under extreme pressure," he said.
“The sector urgently needs support, certainty and fairness applied across the supply chain if it is to remain strong.
“That’s why the NFU is calling for change within poultry supply chains to ensure a fairer sharing of risk and reward, as outlined in our response to the government’s recent review of the egg supply chain."
The survey also highlighted the ongoing threat from avian influenza that poultry farmers and their flocks continue to face.
While the number of outbreaks has been minimal this winter compared to previous years, the impact the disease has on farms is still keenly felt across the sector.
Mr Mottershead said: "We wait in anticipation for the government to publish the recommendations from the AI Vaccination Taskforce so that informed decisions can be made to protect the national flock.”
What did the survey highlight?
The NFU's survey highlighted some of the key concerns for both sectors, including:
• The risk of avian influenza (94% of egg producers and 92% of chicken meat producers were fairly or very concerned)
• The lack of fairness in the supply chain (90% of egg producers and 76% of chicken meat producers were fairly or very concerned)
• High energy prices (92% of egg producers and 61% of chicken meat producers were fairly or very concerned)
• Being undercut by imports (90% of egg producers and 78% of chicken meat producers were fairly or very concerned)