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

In a strongly worded intervention, Ranjit Singh Boparan, owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, called for a “reset” of prices to reflect the true cost of producing food.

“How can it be fair that a whole chicken costs less than a pint of beer?” You are looking at a different world where the customer pays more, ”he said Wednesday.

Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group produce around a third of all poultry products consumed by people in the UK.

Chicken is the most popular meat in the country, with consumption far exceeding beef, lamb or pork. Any price increase is likely to have a disproportionate impact on low-income families.

Boparan, whose facilities in the UK and Europe process more than 10 million birds per week, said Britain is entering a new era, one in which labor shortages and rising commodity prices would mean less choice and higher prices.

UK’s Largest Poultry Supplier Warns of Large Chicken Price Rise |  Bernard Mathieu
Ranjit Singh Boparan Photography: Tim Scrivener / REX / Shutterstock

He said rising inflation was “degrading the food sector supply chain” and the government could not fix the problem.

“The days when you could feed a family of four with a £ 3 chicken are coming to an end. We need transparent and honest pricing. This is a reset and we need to clarify what that will mean, ”he said.

“The food is too cheap, there’s no point avoiding the problem. In relative terms, a chicken is cheaper to buy today than it was 20 years ago.

The group’s 600 farms and 16 factories, which employ 18,000 people, are facing soaring energy costs, which Boparan says rose 450% to 550% from last year.

He said wages had increased by 15%, as had feed costs for poultry while other inputs, including feed supplements, wood chips for litter, disinfectants and veterinary costs, increased by up to 20%.

Along with wage increases for heavy truck drivers, which remain rare, fuel costs are now at their highest level since 2013.

“Inflation degrades the infrastructure of the food sector supply chain and its ability to function normally. It’s farm-to-your-plate, ”said Boparan, who is nicknamed the King of Chicken due to his position in supplying many large Main Street retailers.

He said he needed to invest in increasing automation to secure the future of his operations, adding that inflation could reach “double digits” in the near term due to the surge in costs.

“We really need to start thinking differently about our food priorities and their cost,” Boparan said.

He welcomed the temporary seasonal visas for poultry workers, which the government has put in place to ensure Christmas turkeys are ready for the holiday season, but said in the longer term: “Less work means less choice, basic ranges, empty shelves and wage inflation, and that’s not going to change.

“We have to work with our supply chains and our customers to resolve these issues, but it will come at a cost. “

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Boparan latest to warn of food price inflation as global commodity prices rise, which is linked to trade recovery as pandemic eases in key regions such as states United and Western Europe, combined with production problems caused by a mix of climate change and Covid-19 related shutdowns.

The UK is also experiencing staff shortages, as the flow of workers from the rest of Europe, who made up a high proportion of those working in food processing, has been reduced since Brexit.

In the summer, the Food and Beverage Federation, which represents thousands of food producers, food prices could increase by about 5% by the fall, and turkeys and pork products could be in short supply this Christmas due to shortages of delivery drivers, slaughterhouse staff and other workers increased wages and other costs.

Grocery prices rose 1.7% in the four weeks to Oct. 3, compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest figures from Kantar analysts.

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