New data has highlighted a drop in the number of game birds reared for the 2020 shooting season and a rise in poult prices due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kenny Nutting, director of St David’s Game Bird Services, Exmouth, Devon, said rearing levels were down 40-50 per cent in some areas of the South East and South West compared to last year, but added the rest of the UK remains closer to 70-80 per cent of previous levels.
Price of poults were also impacted by the pandemic, with prices ranging from £3.90 to £4.20 per poult compared to £3.80 to £4 per poult in 2019, a 15p increase on average.
Dr Nutting said: “Looking back at the past four months, the early days of the official lockdown caused a number of cancellations of poults, chicks and eggs from a range of different sized shoots, estates and farms.
“However within a few weeks, many shoots that had cancelled their season reverted their decisions and chose to run on a reduced basis compared with last year.
“While some have questioned the price has increased during a time where demand could be lower, we have noted that the more expensive birds are often better quality and the game farms that produce them have been working hard for some time to reduce disease and to raise their standards in line with the requirements of for example, the British Game Alliance audit.”
Dr Nutting added the pandemic had given shoots the opportunity to look more closely at their current operations, with a clear theme of efficiencies among those who were working the season and those who have postponed until next year.