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UK's Largest Poultry Supplier Warned of a Significant Rise in Chicken Prices

The owner of the UK’s biggest poultry supplier has warned that the cost of chicken is expected to rise by more than 10%, adding that food in Britain is “too cheap.”

Ayushi Raina
Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews
Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews

The owner of the UK's largest poultry supplier has warned that the price of chicken would rise by more than 10%, adding that food in the Britain is "too cheap."

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, asked for a "reset" on pricing to reflect the real cost of producing food in a strongly worded intervention.

"How can a whole chicken be less expensive than a pint of beer?" "You're looking at a different universe in which the consumer pays more," he stated on Wednesday.

Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group manufacture almost one-third of all poultry products consumed in the United Kingdom.

Chicken is the most popular meat in the country, outselling beef, lamb, and pork. Any price increases are expected to have a disproportionate effect on lower-income families.

Boparan, whose UK and European facilities process more than 10 million birds per week, said Britain was entering a new era, one in which labour shortages and commodity price increases will mean less choice and higher costs.

He added Rising inflation, was "decaying the food sector's supply chain," and the government couldn't solve the issue.

"The days of feeding a family of four with a £3 chicken are coming to an end. We require honest and transparent pricing. This is a reset, and we need to lay out exactly what that entails," he added.

"There's no point ignoring the issue since food is too cheap. In relative terms, buying a chicken today is less expensive than it was 20 years ago."

Energy prices for the group's 600 farms and 16 factories, which employ 18,000 people, have soared by between 450 and 550 percent since last year, according to Boparan.

Wages and feed prices for poultry were up 15%, he said, while other inputs such as diet supplements, wood shavings for litter, disinfectants, and veterinary charges were up to 20%.

Along with salary increases for HGV drivers, who are still in short supply, fuel prices have risen to their highest level since 2013.

"Inflation is degrading the food industry's supply chain infrastructure and its capacity to operate normally. That's from farm to plate," said Boparan, nicknamed the "Chicken King" due to his role in supplying several big high-street retailers.

He stated that he needs to invest in growing automation to guarantee the future of his operations, and that the wave of cost rises might lead inflation to reach "double digits" in the short term.

"We really need to start thinking differently about what our food priorities are and how much they cost," said Boparan.

He welcomed the government's temporary seasonal visas for poultry workers, which were introduced to ensure Christmas turkeys are ready for the festive season, but warned that in the long run, "less labor means less choice, core ranges, empty shelves, and wage inflation, and this isn't going to change."

"We must collaborate with our supply chains and customers to resolve these challenges, but this will come at a cost."

Boparan is the latest to warn of food price inflation as global commodity prices rise, which are linked to a revival of trade as the pandemic eases in key areas such as the United States and Western Europe, combined with production issues caused by a combination of the climate crisis and Covid-19 shutdowns.

The UK is also facing labour shortages as the flow of workers from the rest of Europe, who made up a large proportion of people working in food processing has been reduced since Brexit.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents thousands of food producers, predicted in the summer that food prices would rise about 5% by autumn and turkeys and pork products would be in short supply this Christmas due to a shortage of delivery drivers, abattoir staff, and other workers, which drove up pay and other costs.

According to the most recent Kantar data, grocery prices increased by 1.7 % in the four weeks ending 3rd October compared to the same time the previous year.

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