The European Commission has accused organisations representing leading EU egg farmers of misleading their members in the belief that there would be extra time for complying with the 2012 conventional cage ban.

Grass-roots opinion at the SPACE 2008 show near Rennes in Northern France suggests that the there was no way that the deadline would be met for the EU cage flock.

Tecno sales manager Renato Zaramella suggested that “a very low percentage” of his customers had switched to enriched cages. None of his customers wanted to switch and there was a big protest at the timescale. They were determined to use their relatively new conventional cage operations right up to the deadline.

“For sure they are not happy to have to do it, especially considering the cost and the fact that the government is not giving any grants. The banks are not working properly, either. They ask such huge guarantees.”

Pedro Sanzol from the Spanish manufacturers Zucami said there were 13 enriched units operating in his territory – six in Germany, four in Italy and three in Spain.

Frank Moormann, Big Dutchman’s sales manager for France, Austria, Greece and Switzerland added by highlighting that an increasing number in France were starting to prepare their units for life with enriched cages.

But there was also much discussion about alternative systems such as aviaries and free range, with particular interest in developments in Germany, The Netherlands and the UK.

“The demand for Big Dutchman enriched cages is growing following excellent production results from customers in France where the first units went in four years ago and where there are some 1.2m layers in enriched Dutchman cages,” he said.

“Those with enriched cages say they are delighted with better egg quality, mortality and feed consumption and how it has led to economical success. One client told me that the colony system brought back his delight at being an egg farmer.”