Illegal Egg Imports May Hit Scottish Produce

SCOTLAND, UK - NFU Scotland is to maintain pressure on Europe to enforce and police forthcoming welfare legislation to ensure the commitment to compliance being shown by Scottish egg and pig farmers is not undermined by illegally produced eggs and pork from other parts of the EU.
calendar icon 3 November 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

The 1999 Welfare of Laying Hens Directive requires that, after 1 January 2012, conventional laying cages be eliminated from egg production systems in Europe. A year later – January 2013 – a European ban on the use of sow stalls will come into force.

Scottish and UK egg producers will be fully compliant with the laying cages requirement by the end of the year while sow stalls were unilaterally banned in the UK more than 10 years ago.

However, it is already apparent that a significant number of Member States will not be in a position to comply with the conventional cage ban when it comes into force in eight weeks time. In addition, there are already concerns being voiced that a worrying number of EU countries are also going to miss the deadline to meet the sow stall ban.

That leaves Scottish egg and pig producers, who have invested heavily in high welfare, compliant systems, possibly having their market undermined by illegally produced European eggs and pork.

Speaking after a meeting of NFU Scotland’s Poultry Working Group, NFUS Vice President John Picken said: "In the past fortnight, the Union has met with the Head of the Commission’s Animal Welfare Unit, Mr Andrea Gavinelli in Brussels. We plan to keep up our pressure on Mr Gavinelli and his staff over the very real danger that non-compliant lower welfare produce poses to our poultry and pig producers and the need for positive EU action to address this.

"We have asked the Commission to investigate specific articles that may allow Member States to exclude non-compliant product, where it has the potential to undermine the sustainability of a Member State’s own high welfare production. The need for such protection for Scottish producers of both eggs and pork now looks inevitable if our efforts to improve welfare are not to be undermined by illegally produced imports.

"In relation to the ban on conventional laying cages, the Scottish egg industry will meet the January 2012 deadline, but compliance will have come at a cost that will have run into millions of pounds. There is well-documented evidence that a significant number of Member States will not make the deadline.

"Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) visits next year to the Member States where compliance with the Laying Hens directive has not been delivered are promised and infraction proceedings may follow – but this is far from the fast-track solution that Scottish producers need.

"It is now apparent that the pigs sector will be facing similar challenges in a years’ time with the upcoming EU ban on pig stalls and tethers. This ban comes more than a decade after such legislation came into force here in the UK. The Commission must quickly learn from the issues that have been thrown up by the Laying Hens Directive to ensure that pork produced to illegal welfare standards isn’t served up to our consumers.

"Consumers can be reassured that Scottish eggs and pork will be produced to the highest welfare standards but they must also be reassured that any imported produce meets those same welfare standards. For that to happen, we need appropriate support at a European level and commitment from our retailers and food service operators that any imported produce will come from fully compliant systems.

"We have already taken the time to brief all major retailers on the threat our producers face. While encouraging them to source as much of their requirements from Scottish producers, we have also asked them to provide assurances that any fresh produce that is imported is compliant with the forthcoming regulations. That same assurance needs to extend to any manufactured products that contain any imported eggs or pigmeat. I think their customers would expect nothing less."

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