24 April 2003 | Robin Parker
Supermarkets could be forced to import more turkeys after the UK's second biggest supplier went into administration.
More than 1,400 jobs are under threat at Brandons, which blamed a rise in cheap imports for depressing poultry prices and squeezing its margins.
Receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers has agreed to feed Brandons' five million turkeys while it seeks a buyer.
Brandons supplies nine million of the 26 million fresh and frozen turkeys sold in the UK every year, and almost half of those sold at Christmas. Its exit would leave the UK market largely to Bernard Matthews.
Stores are opening talks with alternative suppliers to maintain stocks after Easter, when up to a fifth of turkeys are sold.
Brandons' Easter supplies to supermarkets including Safeway and Asda were unaffected.
Kevin Hawkins, director of communications at Safeway, said stores adopted a broad "buy British" policy, but whole turkeys are a declining market. "We're selling fewer of them, even at Christmas," he said.
"This creates problems for British suppliers, and price does start to drive it."