U.K. Roast-Chicken Tax Seen Costing Shoppers, Farmers Millions

U.K. plans to include fresh roasted chickens sold in supermarkets among hot takeaway foods subject to value-added tax will cost farmers and shoppers millions of pounds, the British Poultry Council said.

New rules on sales tax will increase the cost to shoppers of whole rotisserie chickens by 20 percent as of Oct. 1, the council wrote in an e-mailed statement. That could prompt consumers to cut purchases by 9 percent, or 73,000 birds a week, the council said, citing an in-store trial by William Morrison Supermarkets Plc.

British shoppers buy about 810,000 rotisserie chickens a week in supermarkets, with a value of about 185 million pounds ($300 million) a year, according to Peter Bradnock, chief executive officer of the council.

“We’re asking that the status quo remains and we’re treated the same as other foodstuffs in the supermarket,” Bradnock said by phone. “Consumers are keen to buy rotisserie chicken because it is freshly cooked in store and they know the provenance.”

The VAT plan is unjust because it singles out only rotisserie chicken in supermarkets, according to the lobby group. The council and Morrison are asking the government to rethink the measure, it said.

Whole rotisserie chickens bought in supermarkets are not eaten in the same way as a takeaway, with the birds typically eaten later and as only part of a main meal, the council wrote.

Morrisson sells hot roasted chickens for 4.40 pounds a bird, and the price would climb to 5.28 pounds based on the VAT plan, according to Bradnock.

The tax would bring in 34 million pounds for the government, while sales of rotisserie chicken in the U.K. might fall by as much as 4 million birds, or 17 million pounds, the council wrote.

“These sales that’ll be lost will be sales of whole British chicken,” Bradnock said. “Those sales are likely to be lost to imports of chicken that’s been cooked in Thailand, frozen and then exported to the EU and the U.K.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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