Egg Producers' Plight Highlighted to Minister

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) has highlighted the plight of its egg producers to the Agriculture Minister in complying with the EU directive on layer housing.
calendar icon 15 October 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

The Ulster Farmers' Union has made proposals to the Agriculture Minister that will help egg producers meet the costly demands of the EU Welfare of Laying Hens Directive.

Following an egg industry meeting with Agriculture Minister, Michelle Gildernew, UFU president, Graham Furey, said: "The EU Directive will prohibit the use of conventional cages from the 1st January 2012. This Directive was adopted by the Commission in 1999 and egg producers delayed a decision to make large investments until they knew the result of a report on egg production systems which the Directive stated would be published in 2005.

"This report was not published until 2008 and stated that the ban on cages would not be lifted. This poses two major problems for the Northern Ireland egg producing industry: obtaining finance and completing the conversion before the deadline. Eighty-eight per cent of cage eggs are produced in conventional cages therefore complying with this legislation will require significant investment by local farmers to convert conventional cages to alternative systems. Many producers now find themselves in the difficult position of having to invest heavily to stay in business, within a very short time frame."

UFU Poultry chairman and egg producer, John McLenaghan, stated: "The bird production cycle means that birds placed after August 2010 will be in breach of legislation come January 2012, which therefore leaves producers with only one year for conversion. The Agriculture Minister in Republic of Ireland intends to give egg producers € 16 million to assist conversion to alternative systems. This will create an anti-competitive market on the island, further distorted by potential imports of cage eggs from other member states who have already indicated that they will not meet the 2012 deadline."

The UFU has proposed several potential solutions to the Agricultural Minister to assist egg producers in the province:

  • Make funding via the Processing and marketing Grant Scheme (PMG) accessible to egg producers to assist in the conversion of conventional cages to alternative systems
  • Channel unspent PMG funding into a specific sub-scheme of the Farm Modernisation Programme for egg producers, or
  • Alternatively, the UFU proposed a 'scrappage scheme'. Under the terms of such a scheme, DARD would support producers who scrap their existing cages and construct new colonies which meet the requirements of the EU Directive. This could be done through the 'meeting standards measure' of the NI Rural Development Programme which is an avenue to deliver funding currently at DARD's disposal.

John McLenaghan added: "The UFU believes that the egg sector is worth supporting. For many years, egg producers have been self-sufficient without any significant financial contribution from Government. Our egg farmers produce a quality product and supply both local and export markets. Egg producers are ready and willing to make the necessary changes in order to comply with the Directive but financing the investment is extremely difficult.

"Unfortunately, time is also against us so we have asked the Minister to do what she can to assist the industry financially. The UFU will continue to support the Minister in working towards a viable and affordable solution for the industry."

Further Reading

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