Farmers egg on minister's pledge

UK FARMING leaders yesterday welcomed the robust attitude taken by the UK farming minister Jim Paice on the possibility of eggs produced by inferior systems coming into this country from other EU countries.

The fear of home country farming leaders is that those countries that have not upgraded their battery cages to comply with higher welfare standards due to come into force in 13 months time will still be able to send their eggs into this country.

The Minister confirmed government support for UK egg producers who are investing in enriched colony systems on laying hen farms. And delegates attending a egg and poultry conference in Warwickshire were then told he had written to the European Commission seeking a ban on eggs from conventional cages being traded between member states after 1 January 2012.

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A spokesman for NFU Scotland said this ban was necessary to protect producers who had invested a great deal of money in new more hen friendly systems and if some restriction was not placed on those who had not invested in new facilities then they would be beneficiaries.

NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bourns said: "We welcome the minister's pledge.

"It is clear that fair trade in the single market will be complicated by the estimated 100 million-plus birds that could still be reared in conventional cages in other EU member states after the ban comes into effect. So we welcome the minister's efforts."