An Irish MEP has raised fears of redundant conventional cages being moved outside the EU, re-deployed on farms and the resultant egg products then being imported into the EU to get around the up coming cage ban.

Ireland East Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness highlighted that significant investment in new free range or barn egg systems will be required if the sector is to meet the 2012 deadline of phasing out conventional cages.

Mrs McGuinness called on the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food to provide an estimate of the costs involved in meeting the requirements of the Directive and to outline what plans are in place to ensure a smooth transition to the new regime.

“I am concerned that the EU Directive will have the unintended consequence of increasing the level of imports of egg products into the EU from third countries, where caged systems will remain fully legal and in use.

“Liquid egg used in the catering trade and dried egg products will come from outside the EU, effectively beating the new Directive and EU consumers will be none the wiser about what production systems the eggs used in cakes and bread come from.”

She warned: “We may even see redundant cages moving outside the EU and re-employed on farms in third countries.

“For table eggs the identification of the production system is clearly identified on the pack. However, the situation of egg products is much less clear.”

Another factor that may drive imports is that, given the current economic climate, it is likely that there will be consumer resistance to the higher egg prices which will accompany new production systems required to meet the needs of the Directive, she said.