Back in the fields but not out of the egg production woods
That was the message given by egg producers who welcomed the return to free range conditions after the longest yet lockdown extended beyond the derogation, which allowed eggs from cooped up chickens which would normally be outside still to be sold as free range.
As a consequence, under EU marketing regulations which still apply in the UK, all eggs from free-range and organic flocks have been re-labelled as barn eggs since March 21.
But next week’s relaxation will allow more than 27million free range and organic hens once more into the great outdoors – and to qualify as free range once again from 2 May.Reacting to the relaxation of housing regulations, the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) welcomed the news - but made it clear egg producers were still at breaking point because of soaring costs of production.
“It’s really good news that shoppers will soon have free range eggs available on the shelves, and British farmers are extremely grateful to consumers for continuing to buy eggs from these flocks even though they have been temporarily re-classified as barn eggs,” said BFREPA chief executive, Robert Gooch.“But while it’s a relief to my members, lifting the housing order does not solve the crisis facing the egg sector. It will not remove the huge hikes in energy, transport, feed and labour costs they are experiencing.”Painting a bleak picture, Gooch said that a recent survey of BFREPA members had suggested that more than half of free range and organic egg farmers were considering exiting the industry:
“And even a small number coming out of egg production would lead to egg shortages which we predict will come later this year,” said Gooch. He said that rising inflation was having devastating consequences on free range egg production in the UK and was likely to result in a mass exodus of the industry unless retailers increased the costs of eggs in store, and pass that increase down to farmers.BFREPA has been campaigning for an increase of at least 40p per dozen to be implemented immediately – 80p per dozen for organic eggs – and has written to the eight major food retailers in the UK to act before businesses go bust.BFREPA said Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, and Waitrose were all culpable for the desperate situation and that they were the only ones in the supply chain who could make a difference.The organisation has called a Crisis Summit for 10 May and invited representatives from each retailer to attend to discuss how to resolve the issue.BFREPA’s survey of member intentions suggested that 51 per cent of farms were considering not restocking. The national free range and organic flock stands at about 27.7m, producing more than 8.5 billion eggs a year.
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