Sunday, March 16, 2008

Corn price inflation hits the pheasant hunters hard

BRITAIN'S pheasants are enjoying a peaceful few months after the end of the shooting season on February 1st. Not so the country squires who pay to have them lovingly nurtured ahead of the avian equivalent of the Somme next autumn. If their hobby was already an expensive one, it has become even more so with corn prices rising as fast as a bird out of the cover.

The problem is that pheasants, like all other creatures, have to eat. “The shoot finances were hammered last season by the large increase in the price of corn from which all shoots have obviously suffered,” writes one manager, informing clients of an increase in the daily cost, per gun, from £795 ($1,610) to £845.

Only around 40% of the pheasants end up being shot; the rest wander off or get eaten by foxes. But the shoot managers, who buy the birds at around eight weeks old, have to feed the lot. And Charles Nodder, a consultant to the Game Farmers' Association, says the industry has also been hit by the higher cost of fuel to keep the chicks warm.

If the shooting lobby is to be believed, their sport is a surprisingly big business, contributing £1.6 billion to British GDP and creating 70,000 jobs. Members of shooting parties pay around £30-35 a bird to test their aim (though, once killed, the wholesale meat value is well under £1). Luckily for the shooting syndicates, a price rise of 5-6% is not likely to put off the bond traders and hedge-fund managers who have become devotees of the sport. Like the pheasants, they are ripe for a plucking.

-Corn prices hit with both barrels

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