The NFU has called upon the European Commission to ensure UK egg farmers are not undercut by illegally produced eggs when new rules to protect the welfare of laying hens come into force on January 1, 2012.
Charles Bourns, NFU poultry board chairman, and Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council, met with senior members of the Commission in Brussels to discuss measures to safeguard the UK market among fears that up to 13 member states will be producing illegal eggs in 2012.
“British egg farmers have spent around £400million on upgrading their farms to meet these new standards and there is a real threat that all this effort could be for nothing if they are undercut by cheap imports from countries which are still producing eggs in lower welfare systems,” said Bourns.
“That’s why we have asked the Commission to implement an intra-community trade ban on illegal cage eggs to avoid compliant producers being undermined.
“Admittedly there could be difficulties with the traceability of imported eggs and egg products, and liquid egg will be even harder to police once removed from the shell. This is why the powers of the Food and Veterinary Office should be strengthened to ensure all member states have robust inspection procedures in place and that all EU egg products are fully traceable.
“We have also told the Commission to initiate infraction procedures against member states with non-compliant producers,” he said.
According to figures from the Commission more than 11 million hens will still be housed in un-enriched cages when the EU ban comes into play on 1 January, 2012.
“We will continue to work with Defra and to lobby the Commission to ensure our industry is not undermined by illegally produced eggs,” said Bourns.
The EU directive requires member states to switch from un-enriched cages where hens have at least 550cm², to the enriched cage system where hens have at least 750cm² plus areas for perching, scratching and pecking.