Poultry conference: Zero-tariff egg imports could put Welsh producers out of business
Eggs are back in fashion and have a secure future among consumers, according to industry leaders at NFU Cymru’s annual Poultry Conference on Wednesday (November 20).
However, fears were raised over the potential impact of Brexit – particularly should tariffs be lifted on imported eggs.
James Corbett, managing director of the Ridgeway Food Group, explained that there had been a strong growth for eggs in recent years and that per capita consumption was on the up. This has been led by various factors including lifestyle changes and direct and non-direct marketing.
“Eggs are back in fashion – they’re healthy, nutritious and consumers love them,” he said.
‘A long way to go for fair prices’
Victoria Shervington-Jones, who chairs the NFU Cymru poultry board, said the industry was “forward-looking and dynamic” and explained how farmers in the sector were continually looking to drive efficiencies.
“The progressive nature of the industry is evident,” she said. “As I look around the room I can see so many young faces all here eager to learn more and share knowledge with others within the industry.
Although egg prices have increased slightly from this time last year, there is still a long way to go to get a fair price for our product.
“Broiler prices have also been under pressure and feed costs for both sectors have been high.
“A tough retailer environment, which is demanding cheaper food, is driving down prices at the farmgate and the continued political turmoil is causing uncertainty on the UK’s future trading relationships with the EU27.”
NFU Cymru policy adviser Dafydd Jarrett warned of the challenges of Brexit.
“We must not underestimate the true value of this industry; 200 eggs are consumed per person per year in the UK,” he said. “This shows that there continues to be a huge demand for this healthy and nutritious product.
“There will always be a demand for a value egg and the Welsh and UK Governments must bear this in mind when deciding on future policies for the sector.
“There are challenges going forward; the threat of a ‘No-deal’ Brexit has not gone away and the UK Government must re-look at its tariff regime.
Zero tariffs on imported eggs and only 22% on poultry meat imports could lead to EU products flooding the UK marketplace, pushing Welsh and UK poultry producers out of business.
“Our current competitive and forward-looking industry cannot compete with these cheaper, lower standard products.
“We must continue to communicate the great work taking place within the industry; one being the huge reduction in antibiotic usage, the UK is now one of the lowest users of antibiotics in the EU.
“Such messages need to be out there with consumers and we will do everything to present consumers with facts, not fiction.
“I would urge all consumers to look for the British Lion Code on eggs and Red Tractor on poultry meats to ensure they are buying a quality-assured product.”