Feed price puts squeeze on turkey farmers
Almost 60 years ago, Labour deputy Michael Pat Murphy made an impassioned plea in the Dáil for a better price for turkey producers.
And he warned that the industry could be gone by the following year if farmers were not protected.
Some 59 years later, the turkey industry has survived but instead of a flock of turkeys in every farmyard there are now only about 140 turkey producers in the whole State.
Many of them are struggling to survive, according to the Irish Farmers Association.
Executive secretary of its poultry committee Amii McKeever said farmers had already been losing money, but this year was particularly difficult because the bad harvest had caused the price of feed to increase by 10-15 per cent.
“We are getting to the point where there are not that many growers left,” she said. “To actually have enough turkeys for everyone to buy an Irish turkey is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Ten years ago, the Christmas kill was about 1.2 million turkeys.
Last year, only 765,000 turkeys were killed in November and December, according to David Owens, Bord Bia’s poultry sector manager.
Irish people are expected to eat about 700,000 turkeys this Christmas, and imports from Italy will account for about 24 per cent of those, according to Mr Owens.
Co Carlow farmer John Fitzgerald, who sells his turkeys under the Slaney Farm Fresh Turkeys brand, said the imports were killing the Irish industry.
“I have no problem with imported turkeys as long as they are sold as that,” he said. “We want a level playing field. Our biggest problem is imported birds that are being sold as Irish birds. That happens to a great extent.”
There is no legal obligation on butcher shops to show the country of origin on turkeys, but that legislation will be introduced in 2014.