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Egg Growers Cracking It

by 5m Editor
19 August 2009, at 11:32am

AUSTRALIA - Woolworths' move away from cage eggs is nothing more than a publicity stunt, according to the Australian Egg Corporation.

The AEC says cage egg sales will remain the same, despite Woolworths' reduction of cage suppliers.

The corporation has accused the supermarket of playing games with producers to increase its bargaining power.

But the AEC has also come under criticism, again being accused of representing the interests of cage producers over the free range sector.

One of the country's most respected free range farmers, Ivy Inwood, has even written to Agriculture Minister Tony Burke complaining about the situation.

In a circular to members, seen by The Weekly Times, the AEC says it believes Woolworths' apparent move to halve its number of cage egg suppliers was to "consolidate their stock, reduce supplier numbers and therefore increase their price bargaining power".

The supermarket has rejected the claims, reports WeeklyTimesNow.

"This is about responding to consumer preferences," a Woolworths spokesman said.

Free range farmers have attacked the AEC over an item in its newsletter which suggests egg farmers should tell media that "thousands of workers and their jobs could be threatened by any such move (away from cage eggs)."

"Some might conclude that if this were to occur, it would represent a gross abuse of market power by retailers and restaurant chains," the newsletter said.

Ivy Inwood, who produces both caged and free range eggs, has complained to Mr Burke that the AEC bats for cage producers at the expense of the free range industry.

She said a move to more free range would produce more employment because it was much more labour-intensive than fully-automated cage systems.

But AEC communications manager Jacqueline Baptista said moves away from cage eggs could see the eggs imported from overseas, resulting in lost Australian jobs.

She said the AEC "stands by all production methods", and denied the circular instructed members about what they should say to media.

Farm Pride, Family Homestead and Mrs Inwood rejected suggestions free range eggs could drop in price as demand increased.

"How can we drop the price unless we go automated, which means the birds don't go outside?" Mrs Inwood said.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.