A major poultry processor has called on Ministers to support the food manufacturing industry after a Covid-19 outbreak forced its factory to temporarily close its cutting room, at a cost of £2m a week.
Blaine van Rensburg, Banham Poultry managing director, demanded compensation schemes for the culling of animals be available for human health reasons, as they are for animal health.
To date, the Norfolk-based company has destroyed £3.4 million in stock, at a cost of £400,000.
Mr van Rensburg said: “In the poultry industry, we have a two-day window before it affects the supply chain and three days before animal welfare becomes a problem.
“This forces us to make decisions to cull birds on-farm, conduct humane slaughter at plant, contract slaughter out, or give livestock away for free.
“As you can imagine, by 39-48 days of age the livestock have appreciated in value through food consumption and other direct costs.
“To expect a business to kill these animals without compensation is akin to asking Ikea to close their stores and burn all their stock.”
Mr van Rensburg has also asked that key workers be allowed to access the furlough scheme if a business is ordered by Government to close.
The plant shutdown meant his staff lost £900,000 in wages, because the outbreak occurred after the June 30 furlough access cut-off date.
It reopened on September 14.
“Businesses and their staff who need access to the furlough scheme following a Government request to shut down should be afforded that opportunity, like every other business during the peak of lockdown,” he said.
Mr van Rensburg is in talks with officials from a range of Government departments and Public Health England to ensure the food production industry is adequately supported in future.
He said this was important for food security reasons.
Banham Poultry’s situation was raised in the House of Commons by George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, during Defra questions last week.
Defra Secretary George Eustice told Mr Freeman he understood the difficulties faced by the business.