South Lakeland farmers set up scheme to ease shortage of chicken

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Chicken prices in the UK have been rising steadily for the last couple of years A group of farmers have joined forces to try to ease a shortage of

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Chicken prices in the UK have been rising steadily for the last couple of years

A group of farmers have joined forces to try to ease a shortage of chicken following a rise in prices.

Nine farmers in South Lakeland say they had stopped selling animals, as many supermarkets had stopped selling chicken locally, or refused to buy from them.

They have offered to buy back those they have culled by offering to pay whatever the market price of their animals was.

The initiative was launched by the independent farmers’ campaign group Moorland No 2, which supports farmers struggling with rising costs.

Barton Pool farmer David Faulkner said he had recently sold some chickens to a lady who drove her own car to buy them.

“The supermarkets have been selling at sky-high prices that are killing the farmers,” he said.

“There are more than a dozen farmers in this area now who are effectively in dire straits.

“We’re trying to buy our farmers back and support them. When you’re surrounded by death, it’s important to keep the good ones alive.”

‘Death knell’

The scheme is just the latest attempt to remedy the impact of sky-high chicken prices on farmers.

In December, the food standards agency insisted it will crack down on chicken producers caught using cheaper suppliers than the law requires.

And in November, the UK trade body for poultry traders told the BBC that wholesale prices for chickens had risen by a quarter.

Chris Watson, a consultant for Moorland No 2, said the initiative was the last chance for thousands of farmers to afford to sell livestock.

He added: “The aim is for the retired farmers to buy their own ‘beds’ or ‘commodes’, whatever that may be.”

He said this would hopefully help farmers to “build a sustainable supply chain which can help to support communities”.

For the retired farmers, the experiment is about saving their livelihoods, not passing on welfare concerns to their families.

A source at Moorland No 2 said this was important as their objective was to help struggling farmers, not make money out of them.

‘Fear has gripped the countryside’

A recent report into the impact of rising food prices on the UK agriculture sector found much of the increase is down to the rise in the price of transport, with a third of smaller family farms now struggling to sell their livestock.

Mr Watson said the intervention was necessary in the “death knell” of many small rural communities.

“There is fear that rural communities are in real danger,” he said.

“People are opting to leave the industry, and young farmers are leaving at the same time.”

He said the farmers had “strongly supported” the initiative, which has been welcomed by Moorland No 2’s head, Ian Soper.

He said the farmers had been put into this situation by retailers who had ramped up the cost of producing the chicken.

“They put a lot of pressure on farmers,” he said.

“They have allowed standards to deteriorate.”

Mr Soper said that even as the scheme was set up, Moorland No 2 was providing staff to farmers who were having to cull their flock because of unaffordable prices.

“The chickens have come home to me,” he said.

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