By Mark Williams, chief executive, British Egg Industry Council
The BEIC has responded to a cross-party parliamentary inquiry on the impact the UK Government’s post-Brexit trade policy has had, and will continue to have, on food producers, consumers, and businesses in the UK. The evidence we submitted explains why it is vital for the British egg industry that eggs/egg products are included as a ‘sensitive’ sector, particularly in the context of the highly price-sensitive egg products sector.
The BEIC recently joined forces with Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA to urge the Government to reconsider its decision not to designate these sectors as sensitive in the recently agreed Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). CPTPP member Mexico has an egg industry much larger than our own but uses almost exclusively barren-battery cage systems that have been illegal in the UK and the EU since 2012.
The Government’s strategy on international trade is not in line with their supposed position on animal welfare, and we have emphasised this in our response to the call for evidence. Double standards exist where some Conservative MPs have called for a ban on the use of enriched cages in the UK.
Whilst the AI Prevention Zone (AIPZ) that came into force on 17 October 2022 was formally revoked across GB on 2 July 2023, this is no time for industry to take its eye off the ball as biosecurity must remain at the highest level. This virus will find the weakest point of a site’s biosecurity. It is also important to remember that housing provides x2 reduction in risk, but good biosecurity provides a x44 risk reduction and remains industry’s greatest defence against the threat of AI.
As a result of BEIC lobbying over many years, the Government has confirmed that it is to hold a consultation on removing the 16-week derogation period for free range flocks when a govt veterinary housing order is put in place. The consultation is to commence before the summer recess, with a short 8-week response period, rather than the usual 12 weeks. The consultation will run across GB but not in NI which is required to comply with EU legislation under the NI Protocol.
In the EU, the situation on removing the 16-week derogation period is that there was a proposal from the European Commission. At the time of writing this article, voting by member states is expected to take place on 20th July – and it is expected that the necessary EU draft legislation is to be published sometime in August. After this point the draft legislation will be scrutinised in the European Parliament and by the Council of Ministers for a period of 2 months. At the end of October, the newly amended regulations will be published in the Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later – this will likely be around November. After this point, it will mean there will be no reference to a 16-week period for free range flocks. It will then come down to the relevant govt authority in member states to order poultry flocks to be housed due to the threat of e.g., AI, but a 16-week clock will not commence. Eggs from free range flocks will be able to continue to be marketed as FR for as long as the birds are required by the competent authority to remain housed.