British Lion quality mark vital for Scots eggs

With little more than one week to go before the referendum, Scotland’s largest egg producer, John Campbell, of Glenrath, Peebles, threw his weight behind the Better Together campaign.

George Lyon, Keith Hopkins, John Campbell and Willie Porter
George Lyon, Keith Hopkins, John Campbell and Willie Porter

Speaking from the headquarters of the family firm where close to two million eggs are handled daily, Campbell said that he was very worried about the implications of independence for the business which currently has an annual turnover of £55 million and where some 80 per cent of the output goes to other parts of the UK.

His main concern for the future of an independent Scotland was the potential backlash from English egg producers who could, he feared, use their muscle to take Scottish suppliers out of the business.

One particular tactic could be, according to Campbell’s daughter, Karen, who works in the business, the exclusion from supermarket supply lists through not being eligible to use the British Lion Quality Mark, the long-recognised quality assurance mark for egg producers and, as such, is an absolute requirement to sell eggs into British supermarkets.

“If we were excluded from using this logo, then we would not even get on to the supply lists for supermarkets,” she said. “That would mean our eggs would be relegated into second class products.”

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Campbell also stated the UK egg market was currently over-supplied and the market depressed, a situation he said was largely brought about by interference in the market by both the Scottish and Welsh governments.

The granting of cash from publicly funded rural development programmes to help build new premises had increased egg production artificially in both parts of the UK and now the market for the whole industry was over-supplied, he claimed.

He admitted that his company had financially benefitted from the scheme but said that if the cash was available, then he was not going to pass it up. That did not make it right, he added.

Willie Porter, a farmer and director of Angus Soft Fruits which has a £60m turnover and where 80 per cent of the fruit handle goes south into England, said that, with independence, he feared there would be a relegation of Scottish produce during the peak supply season.

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Supermarkets would continue to take produce from north of the Border at either end of the season, he said, when supplies could not be obtained elsewhere but this would not be the case in June and July when fruit could be easily obtained.

Former MEP George Lyon who has headed the rural Better Together campaign, said the views of the two businessmen confirmed the importance to agriculture of staying in the UK with its “massive advantage of a home market of 63 million UK consumers”.