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Laying Hen Cage Changes Debated in Assembly

by 5m Editor
20 October 2010, at 10:34a.m.

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The egg industry has raised concerns that it will be at a disadvantage if other EU member states are allowed to sell eggs from conventional battery cages after the 2012 ban on these cages across the EU.

Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA responded to the No Day Named Motion (NDNM) in relation to the ban on the use of conventional cages for laying hens from 1 January 2012.

The NDNM was tabled as there is concern that the ban on conventional cages may not be enforced equally across all EU Member States. It called on the Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA to make representations to her counterparts in Westminster and Brussels in relation to this issue.

Speaking after the debate Minister Gildernew said: "The poultry industry across the EU has been aware of the laying hens Directive for many years. However, concerns have been raised recently that egg producers in a number of Member States will not be in a position to convert to enriched cages or alternative systems by the 1 January 2012 deadline.

"I welcome the fact that some egg producers here have already taken the step of investing in alternative or enriched cage systems. Most are preparing to be compliant with the EU Directive's requirements from January 2012."

There is concern that some non-compliant Member States may continue exporting eggs, creating unfairness and causing market disturbance within the industry.

In response, Minister Gildernew said: "There is no indication from the EU that there will be any extension to the deadline for the ban on the use of conventional cages. It is vital that we protect egg producers here who will invest in alternative or enriched cage production systems from imports of illegally produced eggs from other Member States.

"I have been lobbying to ensure this is the case, including pressing Defra Ministers to urge the Commission to work on seeking a practical enforcement solution to help manage the transition across Europe. I will also raise this issue with the Commission at the earliest opportunity."

The Minister also addressed an amendment to the Motion, which called for money to be made available through the Farm Modernisation Scheme or another programme to assist poultry farmers to upgrade their systems.

The Minister said: "Tranche 2 of the Farm Modernisation Programme opened for applications on 18 October. My Department consulted with representatives of the poultry industry to ensure that the list of eligible items includes items that will help egg producers to modernise."

In conclusion the Minister added: "I am determined to protect the industry here from potential competition from cheaper eggs imported from non-compliant Member States. I will continue to look for every opportunity to ensure that the economic stability of the egg sector here is maintained."