Farming News - Farming groups warn of turkey shortage this year due to soaring costs

Farming groups warn of turkey shortage this year due to soaring costs

23 Jun 2022
Frontdesk / Livestock
There could be a shortage of turkeys for Christmas this year - and it's being blamed on bird flu and rising living costs.

The warning has come directly from farming groups.

Around 10 million turkeys are eaten in the UK each Christmas, but increased production costs are making it harder for farmers to rear them.

The birds have also been hit hard by avian flu this year, with the UK in the grip of its longest ever outbreak.

"There is definitely going to be a reduced production of turkeys for Christmas," Michael Bailey, turkey group chairman at the NFU, told the BBC.

"I know of several, smaller turkey farmers who are not going to do turkeys this year.

"There's other larger producers who have decided to cut back - some by 50%, some 20%, just to reduce the risk."

Others says that it's too soon to know what the situation will be in the festive season.

"It is too early to say what impact these challenges will have on supply later in the year," says NFU poultry board chair James Mottershead.

"However, producers are doing everything they can to make sure there are plenty of quality, British turkeys available for all to enjoy this Christmas."

Rearing less and rising costs to blame

Turkey prices could also rise this Christmas due to farmers rearing less turkeys this year, as there will be greater demand and smaller supply.

But farmers are also having to deal with and absorb rising production costs.The cost of wheat - a key ingredient for feeding flocks - has risen due to the Ukraine situation which has caused knock-on supply chain issues.

"Wheat has gone from around £150 a tonne a year ago, to around £300+ a tonne. That's your main feed for turkeys, so the cost has gone through the roof,"Michael said.

Michael has made the decision to shut down his own turkey business in Cheshire.

Impact of Bird Flu

UK farmers are also facing the largest and longest ever outbreak of bird flu. Over 120 cases have been confirmed across the country since October 2021 - according to Govt figures.

"We feel the risks are too great with avian influenza.Turkeys easily catch avian influenza, and they die from it very quickly," said Michael.

There is also a shortage of seasonal workers to prepare the turkeys for Christmas. Farmers are blaming Brexit and the pandemic for staff shortages, and want the government to do more to help.

Defra says it wants to support the poultry industry. "Avian Influenza is devastating to poultry businesses. Last year's outbreak, the worst on record, did not materially affect the supply of turkeys, but we continue to engage with industry to offer support and guidance", a Defra spokesperson says.