Significant cost increases for egg and poultry businesses are in the pipeline, as the government moves to full cost recovery for some of its statutory services.
A new consultation has been issued, looking at charging levels for various AHVLA services, including the National Salmonella Control Programme and the Poultry Health Scheme.
"While government already charges for some services, the fees have not been revised for some time," says the consultation document. "The proposal is therefore to revise existing fees to achieve full cost recovery."
The main change for the Samonella NCP relates to sample collection and analysis, affecting some 420 businesses.
"The current charges do not reflect the true costs of carrying out the statutory official sampling requirements," said a DEFRA spokesman. "The true costs include overheads, such as travelling times, equipment, sending samples to the government lab and inflation."
Currently the government is only collecting about half the £309,000 cost. The consultation therefore suggests moving to full cost recovery, either in one step by April 2013, or two steps by April 2014.
DEFRA is also planning to charge different sectors different fees, based on the actual time spent by AHVLA inspectors collecting samples (see table). This would actually result in lower sampling charges for egg producers, but higher charges for breeders, broilers and turkey producers.
The consultation also affects the Poultry Health Scheme, used by 31 companies covering 215 holdings involved in the export of live birds and hatching eggs - a business worth £127m annually.
Less than 24% of the cost of running this scheme is charged to these businesses, with the taxpayer picking up the balance. The government is proposing to increase the fees, again either in one or two steps, to ensure full cost recovery by 2014.
* The full consultation can be found at www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2012/07/16/ahvla-fee-revision/ and responses are invited by 10 September.
Salmonella National Control Programme fees
|| Service Existing fee
|| Proposed fee (full cost recovery)|
| AHVLA sampling and travel time
|| £23.64/half hour|
| Laying flock sample
| Breeder flock sample
| Turkey sample
| Examination of samples
|Layer units are also expected to pay for dust tests, on top of the boot swabs they currently pay for, doubling that charge to £30.60.|