John Bowler’s Eggs, which offers franchises to free-range producers, has been accused of “bullying” its producers into changes to their supply contracts.
A producer, who did not want to be named, sent Poultry World a consultation document received on 1 February from the company.
He was concerned about the amount of notice given and said he felt forced into accepting the changes. The document details proposals due to come into effect on 16 February, and asks for any responses to the consultation to be sent before Monday 11 February.
It details the introduction of an £85 collection charge for picking up eggs, capped at 3p/doz for producers with fewer than 12,000 birds. This will apply to two collections a week for 52 weeks, according to the letter – a total bill of £8,840.
The document also proposes a “loyalty bonus” of 3p/doz – potentially offsetting the collection charge – “to all producers trading with us through our standard contract”.
Two further conditional price increases are also included.
First, a “285 egg bonus”, giving producers an extra 2p/doz if the producer delivers 285 eggs a hen, plus a further 1p/doz for more than 300 eggs a hen.
It is understood that it is being introduced to discourage excessive sales from the farmgate, which the Bowler’s contract limits to 5%, equivalent to 15 second-class eggs.
A “John Bowler Guild of Excellence” is also being introduced. This is an auditing system offering a 3p/doz premium to producers who achieve more than 90% in a series of three annual audits. These cover elements relating to farm management, animal health and welfare, and “compliance with trading terms” – including farmgate sales and feed and pullet purchasing.
The producer who sent the document to FW accused Bowler’s of increasingly making its producers “jump through hoops”, and said that producers were being “tied further and further into buying what Bowlers tell us to buy at a price they state”.
“We feel that we are being bullied into taking on the new measures and penalised for the action of other producers and their excessive gate sales,” he added.
Although Bowler’s says that any response to the consultation will be considered, the document states: “If any producer does not wish to participate in these proposals and would prefer to continue to receive the current egg price on their existing terms we will exclude you from the scheme. However please note that there will still be a collection levy with effect from Sunday 16 February.”
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