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Chicken Will Get More Expensive In The UK After Putin's Ukraine Invasion

3 min read

Environment Secretary George Eustice has warned that the price of chicken in the UK will spike as a result of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, in the latest pressure on household bills.

Speaking at the Food and Drink Federation's annual conference on Tuesday, Eustice said the price of wheat, which the poultry sector uses for its chicken feed, had already doubled as a result of Russia's invasion. 

Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat worldwide. While the UK is largely self-sufficient, producing 80% of its own, rising global prices will directly impact consumers at home, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

Eustice warned that although the soaring price of wheat is unlikely to lead to shortages of chickens on supermarkets shelves, it will inevitably force producers to raise their prices as they are paying more for their feed.

"It shouldn't lead to a drop in supply but it's likely that there's going to be a cost pressure there that's going to feed through the system," Eustice said.

"Speaking roughly, there are three or four very large poultry producers in this country.

"They have a situation where feed costs account for around half of their input costs, and they're seeing a cost pressure of around 20-30%. At some point, that's got to feed through the system". 

Eustice warned that the price of food and drink could rise by as much as 8% as a perfect storm of Putin's invasion of Ukraine, soaring energy prices, and supply chain disruption continue to drive inflation. 

"The Institute of Grocery Distribution has done some modelling work based on input from its members and they estimated it could be 6% over the summer, but there are others who feel that's on the optimistic side and that it could be even higher," the Cabinet minister said.

Eustice told the conference that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had "stood back up" the food resilience forum that it established to deal with the shocks of Covid and Brexit, in order to deal with the impact of Russia's invasion on UK food supply.

He said the group, known as FRIF, is now meeting once a week, in addition to "lots of other one-on-one conversations with the players" that the department is having.

The government is particularly concerned about sunflower oil. The UK gets up to a quarter of its sunflower oil from war-torn Ukraine and the industry has not yet been secured authorisation to use a substitute in food production.

Eustice's warnings about soaring food prices come as Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak face pressure to give households more support amid the growing cost of living crisis.

Personal finance expert Martin Lewis morning told MPs that families are going to "face a fiscal punch" when the energy cap rises in April. He added that measures currently in place to protect households are "clearly not enough," especially with the cap at risk of rising again later this year, and urged Sunak to make a major intervention in his Spring Statement on Wednesday.

Speaking earlier this week, Lewis said he was "virtually out of tools to help people" deal with rising bills and worried that ten million people could be plunged into fuel poverty.

"We have a real, absolute poverty issue going to come in the UK, with food banks oversubscribed, and debt crisis agencies do not have any tools," he told the BBC. 

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