Tuesday 23 December 2014

Price hike hits home-grown turkeys

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

Published 19/11/2012 | 05:00

THAT turkey at the centre of your table this Christmas could be an import.

The number of turkeys produced here has plummeted to just 25pc of what it was seven years ago as backyard producers give up due to spiralling costs.

Consumers may face price hikes for their birds this year as soaring feed and energy costs have made turkeys far more expensive to produce.

The Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland predicted prices would rise by up to 10pc as a result – though most supermarkets are remaining coy about what they will charge.

But Bord Bia has warned consumers who want to buy Irish that there's a huge quantity of imported turkeys from Italy flooding the Irish market, most of which are sold through butchers and wholesalers.

Quality

Where once we killed 1.2 million turkeys each Christmas for Irish tables, that slumped to just 765,000 last year.

Total year-round turkey production here has fallen from 3.8 million birds a year in 2005 to under one million in 2011.

However, we imported 166,000 turkeys from Italy last December alone, said Bord Bia poultry market manager David Thomas.

He urged consumers to ask where their turkey came from or opt for a Bord Bia quality-assured product that was produced in Ireland.

"The Irish turkey market has been very badly hit by cheaper imports in recent years and costs have gone up 15pc this year alone," he said.

David Lang of the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland said butchers had to display labels showing where their turkey came from, and were happy to take questions from consumers.

Aldi said that prices for its fresh Irish whole and free-range turkeys would be announced at a later date, but fresh Irish 2kg turkey crowns would cost €19.99. It has imported frozen turkeys for €10.99.

Lidl and Tesco both said they would announce their fresh Irish turkey prices closer to Christmas, though Lidl said it would sell fresh Irish turkey crown for €9.99 per kilo, while frozen Glenfell birds were €10.99.

SuperValu said it would work with suppliers to offer consumers the best price possible, including a half-price offer to loyalty card customers.

The killing season will kick off on December 1, and from then it will be "mental busy" until Christmas Eve, according to Ronan Byrne.

Mr Byrne markets his free-range, pasture-reared turkeys under 'The Friendly Farmer' banner. He sells directly to consumers who come to collect the birds from the Athenry farm and via markets in Dublin and Galway.

This direct sales approach has proved a success as he's increased production from 600 to 800 turkeys this year.

High feed costs have made this a tough year, but Mr Byrne said he was keeping his price increase to a minimal 15c per lb.

Claire O'MahonEy

Irish Independent

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