The poultry industry is to expect huge growth in emerging markets over the next 10 years, but faces a number of challenges if it is to match expected demand. That was the message from Aviagen UK Limited General Manager Graeme Dear at the recent Poultry Industry Education Trust (PIET) conference in Northern Ireland.
Dear outlined how increasing wealth and a growing global population are fuelling an anticipated 30 per cent increase in demand from developing countries across Asia and Africa for poultry meat.
However, Dear warned that the poultry industry faces barriers to meeting that demand. Grain, a staple in poultry feed, is being increasingly used for the production of ethanol for fuel while the industry still needs to invest in facilities and people to support these growth markets.
""We are at a very exciting time in the poultry industry right now," said Dear. "There is potential for huge growth globally as the world's population continues to climb. This brings some specific challenges, though. As things stand, chicken production is one of the most energy efficient and non-polluting forms of farming. This provides consumers with a low cost, healthy protein that quite literally doesn't cost the earth.
"The challenge is to maintain this position. With feed one of the biggest costs of production, rising prices have been concerning producers in all markets and we are seeing increased competition for key resources like grain.
"There is an answer. Feed Conversion Rates (FCR) have improved significantly over the last 20 years but more can be done and we still have great strides to make. One year's improvement in FCR means a saving to the UK poultry industry of over £13million and more than 6,000 hectares of arable farmland. At Aviagen, we believe we can sustain this level of progress for at least the next decade.
"By continuing to improve FCR as well as breeding for other health and welfare traits we can meet the challenges ahead and continue to provide a growing, sustainable, industry."
The event attracted a number of key speakers and was held at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Loughry Campus near to Cookstown. An additional focus of the event is to encourage young people into the poultry industry and demonstrate the careers on offer.
"Each day over two million chickens leave Northern Ireland for markets in Europe. That is 20 to 30 trucks each evening as well as air freight. There is a very strong and growing market here in Northern Ireland and companies are looking to invest in order to ensure this pattern continues. To do that, they need good people, too, so as well as being a great export market the poultry industry is actively creating jobs," said Basil Bayne of PIET. "This is why we were delighted to welcome such a strong speaker line up to the event which was incredibly well attended. This was the best conference for a decade."