The spotlight of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) poultry committee has turned to processors as it seeks to ensure farmers producing chicken and eggs receive a fair price for their produce, with most retailers indicating their “willingness” to increase prices in talks, IFA poultry chair Nigel Sweetnam has said.

“We have seen a willingness to act on behalf of the supermarkets, it’s now time for the processors to stand up,” Sweetnam told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Sweetnam said that the pressure placed on supermarkets through IFA demonstrations and talks with retailers had pushed most of the country’s main supermarkets to agree to the price increases that poultry farmers had been seeking.

“The money is there to be got. They [processors] still don’t want to tender their supplies too high out of fears the retailers will choose other suppliers. The retailers have said that this will not be the case,” stated the poultry chair.

“Higher-end” retailers rather than heavy discounters are seen by the IFA to be posing most of the remaining resistance to farmers seeking better prices, he explained.

Sweetnam’s comments were made after the first of three IFA poultry sector stakeholder meetings was held in Cork on Monday, approximately 100 farmers and industry figures in attendance.

Dates have yet to be confirmed for the remaining two meetings.

Global supplies tightening

Another factor quoted by Sweetnam as influencing supermarkets to pay more for their chicken and eggs was the tightening of global supplies of poultry products.

“The spot market for food is on fire at the moment,” he added.

Sweetnam said that the stopping of Ukrainian poultry exports was hitting the global poultry market, with retailers having little options of dropping Irish suppliers’ contracts in favour of cheaper imported products.

One example he gave of this renewed farmer negotiating power was of an egg producer who had accepted an offer of a 7c per dozen eggs price increase in recent days.

IFA representatives encouraged the farmer to go back to the retailer and seek an additional 17c per dozen eggs, with the farmer being successful in his efforts, Sweetnam said.

“Now is not the time for fellas to sell weak,” he commented.

Importance of poultry

The IFA has said that the importance of poultry to the national food supply is emphasised in the statistic that 46% of all meat consumed in Ireland is poultry.

Sweetnam said that this underscores the need for continued investment in the poultry sector in the education and advisory spheres, citing Teagasc’s allocation of a single adviser to cover the country’s entire poultry sector.

“Looking at the age-profile of the farmers at last night’s meeting, anyone would see the need for new blood in the sector. Education is the way to do it,” the poultry chair added.