A BPC poll of member firms operating in the sector found 15.4% of respondents said they felt slightly less confident than six months ago about the future of the UK poultry meat industry. Virtually a quarter felt similarly about the future of the business they worked for.
In comparison, six months ago no respondents felt less confident in either the industry or their individual businesses.
A BPC spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk the survey itself did not prove exports had been hit by the avian influenza scares. But he said: “You could rationally infer that.” There were no other obvious major causes, he added.
International media has widely reported that bird flu has directly hit poultry sales in Taiwan and India and, most recently, in the US.
UK outbreaks of the disease surfaced most recently last month at a poultry farm at Upham in Hampshire and in November at a duck farm at Nafferton in Yorkshire.
In the past six months, almost half those answering the survey reported an increase in retail sales, but almost a quarter claimed export trade had fallen. The same proportion expected to see it suffer in the next six months.
UK poultry meat
However, the industry was more positive about future demand for UK poultry meat with 62% believing they would see a slight increase in sales to retailers. A total of 38% expected sales to foodservice customers to rise over the next six months.
“This survey shows that the industry and individual members companies continue to have confidence in their futures,” said BPC ceo Andrew Large. “The reported decline in export trade is a matter for concern however, and it throws into sharp relief the need for the UK to regain its avian influenza disease free status as quickly as possible.”
Aside from concerns raised about the export market, more than one third of respondents said they had noticed a slight decrease in the availability of sufficient skilled labour.
Respondents also ranked the most important BPC policy priorities.
BPC members' priorities
1. Reducing the presence of Campylobacter
2. Enhancing the reputation of the British poultry industry and raising awareness of its economic and social contribution
3. Minimising the impact of legalisation
4. Supporting trade
5. Working on changes to the EU meat inspection regime.