Wales’ egg and poultry meat producers have a strong future – but one poultry farmer has warned of the dangers of growing too big too fast.

Richard Jones, who produces eggs near Newtown, told the inaugural Wales Pig and Poultry Event in Welshpool that diversification into egg production had been the wrong decision for some due to oversupply which had pushed down prices in the free range egg sector.

“A lot of people have come in and found it is not working for them because there is an over-supply,’’ he told the conference.

Nathan Ward of market research company Kantar told farmers consumer demand for eggs and poultry meat had risen steadily over the past 10 years.

This was the result of consumers choosing to include more protein in their diets, with growth largely driven by chicken, said Mr Ward.

“People are buying more chicken than ever before. Eighty per cent of all growth in protein sales last year was driven by chicken, it is becoming a big part of the repertoire of the food people are choosing to buy.’’

For the organic poultry sector, growth had not been as strong as it had been in the conventional market, said Mr Ward.

Although sales of organic chicken had grown by 65 per cent in the last five years, within the poultry meat sector overall this is only equivalent to 1.3 per cent of volume growth, he explained.

For egg producers attending the joint Farming Connect and Menter Moch Cymru event, Mr Ward had good news because data had shown that free-range egg consumption had risen by 5-6 per cent a year for the past four or five years.

Forecasts suggest demand will continue to grow.

“As a nation we love eggs, people want foods that are a quick, easy fix and eggs deliver that,’’ said Mr Ward.

“Chicken and eggs are winning the battle on how they are used, they have a great story to tell. There are a lot of positive things going for the future of eggs and poultry.’’

Farming Connect technical manager Dewi Hughes said that knowledge transfer events and a system of advice delivered through Farming Connect, including support to prepare a business plan, allowed farmers to make informed decisions on diversification into this sector.

There are currently 714 poultry farmers and 321 poultry businesses registered with Farming Connect.

With the theme of the conference being ‘Future-proofing your business’, Mr Ward emphasised the need for producers in all sectors to understand the requirements of their buyers, such as current demand for large eggs.

He said a reason for this demand was that eggs are being used more for main meals.

“As producers you have to work with retailers to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’,’’ he advised.

Mr Hughes highlighted the value of having a strong brand and the need to be aware of any opportunities for eggs and poultry produced in Wales to capitalise on provenance through the ‘Welsh story’.

“Perhaps there is an opportunity to develop a Welsh brand and tap into the premium market,’’ he said.

Mr Ward said provenance in combination with the right product does drive value but he emphasised the need for a co-ordinated approach in targeting the right markets.

Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Welsh Government.