Irish poultry industry at a crossroads, IFA

In Focus: Irish farmers and consumers are being “snubbed” by major retail chains, according to Alo Mohan, national poultry committee chairman of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).

“The general position is that we have a feed crisis, lack of investment and retailers lacking the same enthusiasm [for local farms] as their English counterparts,” Mohan said speaking to Agriland.

Some large retail chains support local farms in the UK more than they do here, he claimed. “Aldi have gone 100 per cent Irish and SuperValu are 100 per cent Irish but we’re waiting on other chains to do the same to be equal party as the UK,” he said.

Mohan also claimed the agri-economy at large suffers when poultry takes a hit: “I always come back to the point that the poultry industry is tied in to the grain industry, which has a knock-on effect on the price of feed.

“The industry is sitting on a crossroads. If retailers commit to local farmers as they did in the UK a lot of jobs will be created and farms will expand. It’s up to the consumers to demand local product. The Irish consumers are not being given the same offers as is being done in Northern Ireland and across the UK.”

Another problem for Irish poultry farmers is narrow profit margins for chickens and eggs, which were the catalyst for a recent protest in retail chains across Ireland. “The margins are unrealistic,” claimed Mohan. “It’s a reflection of where we are that many farmers are finding it hard to comply with current directives.”

Waterford poultry farmer Ned Morrissey agreed margins are tight but says Irish people are demanding more Irish chicken. “Consumers seem to be looking for it more. Restaurants are seeing a rise in demand in that side, for example.”

What are the challenges facing poultry farmers?

“The biggest challenge is trying to make a profit,” Morrissey added. “All poultry farmers are struggling because margins are tight. Other than that, support seems good. You can’t work harder than you’re working because you have a set capacity and you can’t do more than that. You do your best but you hope that the money coming back would improve.”

Morrissey said costs have risen in recent times, but returns haven’t improved to compensate: “Costs have gone up over the past two or three years. Gas is one of our biggest bills and that’s gone up nearly 100 per cent. Unless returns from processors go up, a lot of poultry farmers are at best breaking even. “Margins have been squeezed to the point that farmers may have to choose to close their doors or continue at a loss.”

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