17 July 2000
Egg producers ‘face 500m cage bill’

By FWi staff

BRITISH egg producers will be forced out of business unless the government helps fund tighter welfare regulations, farmers leaders have warned.

Farmers face a 500 million bill if they are to implement a European Directive on Laying Hens, claims a study by the National Farmers Union.

Unless help is given, quality producers will be unable to compete against cheap imports with lower standards, said Tim Bennett, NFU deputy president.

“The UK egg industry already carries significant extra costs because of its commitment to high standards,” he said.

“If the EU is serious about raising standards it must assist producers in meeting these additional demands to safeguard them against imports.”

Mr Bennett and NFU Brussels delegate Aled Griffiths will voice their concern at a meeting with junior farm minister Joyce Quin on Tuesday (18 July).

Mr Griffiths sits on the poultry and eggs standing group of European farmers lobby group COPA/COGECA.

He will hand the minister a copy of the study outlining the cost and impact of the directive, which Brussels believes will set world-beating standards.

Mr Bennett will also outline concerns about proposals to revise the special marketing terms for eggs and call for Europe-wide organic egg standards.

The British Egg Industry Council and the UK Egg Producers and Retailers Association will also be represented at the meeting.

European farm ministers last year agreed to outlaw all battery cages from 2012. Phasing out the cages will begin on 1 January, 2003.

That is the date from when egg producers across Europe will be banned from introducing any more traditional-style coops.

At the same time, producers will have to increase the amount of floor space per bird in existing cages by almost a quarter – from 450cm2 to 550cm2.