The fast-approaching EU ban on conventional cages, often in the headlines, still seems set to come into force in January 2012, to the delight of some and dismay of others. At a meeting of EU Farm Ministers in February, it had been proposed that the implementation should be delayed, despite the decision to implement the ban being made way back in 1999. The proposal brought both opposition and frustration.
UK Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman was instrumental in opposing the proposed delay saying: “To delay implementing this ban would be enormously unfair to all the poultry keepers in the UK and other countries around Europe who have worked so hard to stop using battery cages.”
A number of other countries, including Germany, Spain and the Netherlands took the same position.
Some 30% of Europe’s egg production is thought to still be coming from conventional cages, and time is running out to meet the deadline. Health Commissioner John Dalli is reported to have been frustrated with the failure of some Member States to provide paperwork detailing progress on the change-over and is believed to be in favour of a possible ban on the sale of non-compliant eggs come next year.
While some countries have had at least a decade to make the change, those Member States that have joined the EU since 1999, many of which are poorer states, have not been in the same position. Allowing these states to continue to use conventional cages would be unfair to those that have invested, but what will happen come next year? If an intra-community ban on the sale of eggs from conventional cages is introduced, and eggs are banned also from national markets, does this mean that they enter export markets?
That will not be good for prices internationally, yet a European shortfall on the home market, will lead to scarcity and higher prices. And Europe might not be able to look overseas to make up for the shortfall, as Member States are insisting that any imported eggs must meet the same standards as those produced at home.
If these higher prices feed through to producers, that may be a just reward for investment, but supermarkets sometimes have a habit of not passing things along, and it could simply result in higher prices for consumers. This will be particularly unwelcome at a time of rising inflation and will result in little sympathy for producers.
Alternatively, these eggs could find their way onto the black market – never a good thing.