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‘Egg producers won’t meet new regulations’
4:43pm Friday 9th September 2011 in Farming
ONE-THIRD of EU egg production will not meet new hen welfare regulations when they come in to force on January 1.
Now an influential committee of MPs has called on the government to ban imports of non-compliant eggs and egg products, and for the EU Commission to act against member states whose egg producers fail to meet the deadline.
The new rules ban the use of conventional laying cages in favour of ‘enriched’ cages which provide the hens with more space, perches, a nest, litter for pecking and scratching, and unrestricted access to a feed trough.
Around 31 million eggs are eaten in the UK each day with around 80 per cent of eggs and egg products produced domestically where about half are produced from caged hens and 45pc from free-range systems.
UK producers will have spent around £400 million to comply with the new rules which relate to those with more than 350 laying hens and the Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) fears they could be left at a competitive disadvantage.
Anne McIntosh, committee chairman and MP for Thirsk and Malton, said: “The European Commission has just not woken up to the impact that non-compliance with this legislation will have on egg producers in the UK and across Europe.”
The EFRA committee report calls on the UK Government to press for an intracommunity trade ban on the export of non-compliant eggs and egg products, and for the EU Commission to initiate infraction proceedings against Member States where caged egg producers remain non-compliant once the Directive comes into force.
Miss McIntosh said: “Several Member States have not provided data to the Commission about the preparedness of their caged egg producers and, thus far, the Commission has failed to deal with the threat of large-scale non-compliance across the EU.”
The Committee warns that if the Commission fails to enforce the Directive effectively it will set a worrying precedent for other farm animal welfare legislation.
Charles Bourns, chairman of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) poultry board, said: “We are very pleased with the findings and recommendations from EFRA as it comes after a lot of hard lobbying work from the NFU.
“The committee shares our view on a number of issues, such as the need to develop a strategy for non-compliance – something that we all agree should have been done by the Commission already to act as a deterrent and to recognise the potential damage that might be caused to compliant producers.”