The current credit crunch puts a new question mark over the 2012 deadline as funds to upgrade poultry units may not be readily available.
Andrew Joret, director Noble Foods and deputy chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, said that he felt the changes to replace conventional cages with other systems cannot be achieved by the deadline and that there will be some intervention.
EUWEP Statistics on EU laying hens by systems of production show that cage has gone from 77.6% of the total flock of 311.5m birds in the year 2006 to 68.6% of a total of 376.96m in 2007 (provisional figures).
“There are very few enriched cages in Ireland where our units are smaller. These are family businesses, so the cost will involve increasing scale because cages will have to bigger, off the floor and the houses we have are small. So it is not just a case of adapting existing units it is a case of building bigger units.
“The average flock size in Ireland is 10,000 birds and up to 50,000 in a very big unit. So we will be forced to have bigger poultry units and farms and financing that will be a big problem especially with the credit crunch,” said Mr Brooks.
He estimates it will cost his members €40-50m (£33.6-42m) to upgrade. If the government were to give a 50% grant it will only cost producers €20-30m (£16.8-25.2m) spread over three years. However the EU might reject the idea of grants, and the Irish government is strapped for cash at the moment.
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