A 56% drop in poultry meat exports since 2020 underscores the erosion of British poultry supply chains due to Brexit, and shows the need for a Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement.

This is the view of the British Poultry Council (BPC), which said that certification alone has cost exporters £55 million a year since January 1, 2021.

Meanwhile, the national trade group for the UK poultry meat industry said importers have enjoyed a competitive advantage, paying £0 since controls have been delayed five times in two years.

Data from HMRC shows that the UK exported 167,000t of poultry meat to the EU last year, worth £225 million. This is down from 380,000t in 2020.

However, imports of poultry meat continue to rise, with the UK bringing in nearly 675,000t from the EU, valued at over £2 billion.

The BPC said “blatant disparity” in UK-EU trade has unfairly tipped the scales due to the lack of implementation of border controls, leaving exporters to shoulder the costs and burdens of Brexit alone.

The BPC said the cost of not having fair, reciprocated checks is greater than the burdens that come with them – particularly in the absence of an SPS agreement, in which burdens and checks could be “addressed, equalised, and potentially eliminated”.

BPC chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “If quality food for all is the priority, then we have to level the playing field across industries, sectors, and entire nations.

“Only then can we go on to address the inefficiencies in UK-EU trade while safeguarding standards across the board – facilitated by an SPS agreement.

“This government has not made any real effort to pursue an SPS agreement, and continued imbalance between import and export controls is a burden we have yet to see government take seriously.

“By not fixing problems with a mutually beneficial SPS agreement between the UK and EU, government is exposing the UK’s food frameworks to more instability.”

Poultry producers

In February, a survey from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) revealed that 24% of egg producers and 15% of chicken meat producers are either unlikely or unsure if they will still be producing poultry beyond November 2025.

The survey revealed that the main reason for this was insufficient returns.

The BPC said these figures highlight the challenges faced by the British poultry meat industry, “exacerbated by asymmetrical trade with our biggest and most important partner”.

Griffiths said the current system is “eroding business viability and pushing up production costs in the UK, off the back of a very real cost-of-living crisis”.

“No one wants the burdens wrapped up in additional checks. Exporting sectors like our own have suffered the pains of so-called ‘teething problems’ since day one, but the ongoing impact of unreciprocated controls is just as big a problem.

“We have to level the burden to level the playing field. That’s what an equal approach to import checks with the EU guarantees: it recognises our standards, backs our producers, and ensures safe, affordable, nutritious food for all.”