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NI Egg Sector Must Convert to Cage-Free by 2012

by 5m Editor
14 October 2009, at 10:10am

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has met with a range of representatives from the local egg producing industry. The poultry sector needs to press ahead and convert egg production equipment by the EU's 2012 deadline for the end of conventional layer cages.

The industry delegation included the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) president, Graham Furey, and Dr William McCrea MP, MLA. The Minister arranged the meeting to listen to the industry's concerns and discuss the challenges facing the sector, including the forthcoming EU-wide ban on conventional cages for laying hens.

Following her meeting the Minister said: "There is no doubt that the poultry industry, like other parts of agriculture, is facing a number of difficulties at this time. The industry's commitment to meet the welfare standards for laying eggs is very encouraging."

"The EU ban on conventional cages for laying hens, which was announced in 1999 (Council Directive 99/74/EC) and transposed into domestic legislation in 2002, comes into force on 1 January 2012. Many egg producers have already invested in alternative production systems to comply with the EU requirement and to meet market demand.

"The Commission has no plans to delay the date of the EU-wide ban in 2012. I would therefore urge producers to press ahead with making decisions about their future and investing in alternative systems, so that they are able to meet the January 2012 deadline."

Referring to the funding proposals announced in the south, the Minister said: "The funding proposals are part of a package arising from the CAP Health Check Agreement, which included additional funding for the south through increased compulsory modulation rates. I want to make it clear that similar funding is not available to the north or to Britain."

Discussing the assistance that is available to the poultry sector in the north, the Minister said: "I appreciate the difficulties facing the sector at this time and I want to offer assistance where I can. My Department will continue to support the poultry industry here through the Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme. I would encourage further applications from the sector to the on-going Scheme.

"I would also encourage egg producers to discuss their business plans with their bankers and to explore all options available to them. When I met with bank chiefs over the summer, I stressed the importance of the agricultural industry to the economy and asked lending institutions to look sympathetically at spending proposals from farmers.

"My Department's Business Technology Team based at Greenmount Campus will offer business management training to help groups of interested poultry producers to develop their business plans to support applications to banks for financial assistance."

The Minister concluded by saying: "Planning issues were discussed and I agreed to raise these with the Environment Minister. I also intend to write to the EU Commission to press for a new marketing code to be introduced in Egg Marketing Regulations to differentiate between eggs from hens in enriched systems and those in conventional cages. In addition, I will press the Commission to introduce an intra-Community trade ban on eggs produced by hens in conventional cages after 1 January 2012, so as not to disadvantage producers here who have converted out of conventional cages.

"A number of suggestions were made by the industry representatives at the meeting and I have agreed to take these away to reflect on them," she added.