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India has this week slapped an export tax of 40% on shipments of onions leaving the country. Poor growing conditions have contributed to a seven-fold rise in tomato prices, onions are 32% dearer year-on-year and rice is up by 22%. The onion export tax will stay in force until the end of the year. Government elections will be held in 2024 and food prices are a sensitive issue.

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Since February 2021, liveweight prices for finished chickens have risen by 11% in the UK, while chicken feed costs have risen by up to 30%. Over the same period, UK exports of poultrymeat to the EU have fallen by 25% to 208,000 tonnes, while EU shipments of poultrymeat rose by 2.3% year on year to 275,000 tonnes in calendar year 2022. UK consumers buy white chicken meat and not the dark meat on the carcase, which UK poultry producers used to export to balance demand for their output. Without an export market for the dark poultrymeat and facing competition from increased volumes of imported product, the UK poultry sector is between a rock and a hard place.

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Farmed birds need to be robust to survive the rigours of modern agriculture; this is reflected in veterinary inspection standards. Spare a thought, then, for the lovers of caged birds, such as canaries. Veterinary regulations for travel between trading blocs require the birds to be swabbed in the vent and on the tonsils. Since swabbing a canary’s tonsils will kill the bird, they are no longer traded between the EU and third countries, such as the UK.