EPIC 09: DEFRA minister reassures colony producers

DEFRA minister Jim Fitzpatrick is to press the EU Commission for measures to protect UK enriched colony egg producers in the event that other member states secure more time to comply with the 2012 cage ban.

Speaking to delegates at the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference, he said that with the ban rapidly approaching, he was pushing for a “code 4” for enriched colonies and an intra community trade ban. This would prevent the influx of cheap cage eggs after the deadline from other member states, undercutting enriched colony eggs.

The code 4 classification would allow consumers to tell the difference between cage and colony eggs. Currently, both are marketed under code 3 (cage).

Mark Williams of the British Egg Industry Council highlighted that current forecasts suggest that 18-33% of EU layers would still be housed in illegal conventional cages when the 2012 deadline arrives.

He thanked the minister for his support on pushing the EU for a code 4 classification, but he stressed that it was going to be an uphill struggle. The EU is being “lukewarm” to the suggestion and “some member states don’t want anything to do with a code 4.”

So what is the back up if we fail to secure a code 4 and an intra-community trade ban to protect those that have already complied. “What is plan B,” he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick replied by stating that DEFRA was still committed to plan A, the implementation and compliance of the ban. And that plan B was actually pushing the EU for a code 4 category and intra community trade ban on cage eggs.

He hoped there was no need for a plan C.

When questioned on the predicted flood of cage imports from third countries, Mr Fitzpatrick admitted there were World Trade Organisation rules to observe. But as he understood the rules, the EU can impose welfare standards on imports and not be in breach of the rules.

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