New egg Code – hello higher prices, goodbye small farmers

10/12/2012

The Government’s announced changes to the Code of Welfare for Layer Hens are well-intentioned, but the four-year deadline is impossible to meet, says Katherine Rich, CEO of the Food & Grocery Council.

“FGC members that either produce or use eggs will be adversely affected by the shortened transition arrangements in the Code.

“We are concerned that one way or another the result of the announcement could mean major disruption and significantly higher prices for eggs.

“With all the work that had gone into the consultation process, members were disappointed by the introduction of 11th-hour changes which had not been part of the original consultation.

“There was wide support for the previously agreed transition period, and most agreed the plan was doable and fair.

“FGC members absolutely understand shoppers’ interest in animal welfare issues and are supportive of the move to colonies over time.  But they are very concerned that the new phase-out timeframe is impossibly short, and that the industry will not be able to meet the deadline.

“Though the Code’s 10-year phase-in sounds reasonable, the reality is that the first deadline is within just four years.  

“The combination of issues for producers – from lack of available capital to the practical issues of getting timely resource approvals through the Resource Management Act – means expecting industry to be compliant within four years is not realistic.

“The RMA issues alone create a set of unknowns that could stymie the plans of even the most organised egg producer.

“FGC’s seafood, pork, and fresh produce members already face lengthy and costly delays for their investment projects. This new transition timeframe seems to assume that all egg producer plans will sail through all consent processes in record time. History and current cases indicate that is unlikely to happen.

“There is also concern that too much pressure on the industry will result in many farmers dropping out and leaving a supply gap, which would likely result in a drop in production and a subsequent increase in the cost of eggs.

“Eggs are an important part of the weekly shop and an important part of the wider food industry. They are a very affordable source of excellent nutrition and an important part of the diet of families. Many consumers will not appreciate the predicted hike in egg prices that will add to grocery bills and dining-out costs if the transition period is not returned to an achievable timeframe.   

“FGC urges the Minister to reconsider these transition arrangements in the interests of the industry and consumers.

“We all agree on the goal. Let’s make the timeframe achievable.”