Posted 20 June 2006
THE FUTURE challenges facing the UK egg industry was the focus of the annual Temperton Fellowship for poultry research.
Peter Challands, Andrew Jorêt and David Tromans presented the 14th Temperton Fellowship Report on June 12th at Butchers Hall, London.
Their report, entitled The Challenges Facing the UK Egg Industry, looked at how the sector has adapted to the challenges it faces and the changes that have to be made to meet consumer needs.
Commenting on the paper, Challands, Jorêt and Tromans said: “We believe that we can take considerable pride in the way that the industry has adapted to the pressures created by increased consumer concern over the safety of food and the methods by which it is produced, not to mention the demands of a rapidly changing retail landscape.
“As a result we believe that UK Eggs Ltd is in pretty good shape. It has a well-supported industry body that operates a meaningful quality scheme, a production base that is continually adapting to match consumer needs and an increasingly concentrated company structure and supply chain providing excellent service to its retail customers. The industry also achieves a much higher level of self-sufficiency than most sectors of UK agriculture.
“However, the journey continues and the challenges facing the industry over the next ten years leave no room for complacency. There is great concern that legislation designed to improve the welfare standards of laying hens, which will be progressively implemented up to 2012, will substantially increase production costs.
“This in itself will not be an insurmountable problem, although the wisdom of making a valuable food less affordable to the poorest in society when there is mounting concern over the nutritional quality of the national diet, is questionable.
“The big danger to the industry is that the cost increase will coincide with a reduction in the EU tariffs on third country imports as part of the latest round of the World Trade Organisation negotiations. If this comes to pass the impact on the fresh egg sector is probably manageable but that on the European egg products industry could be terminal. The threat from imported egg powder would mean that up to a third of EU egg production is at risk.
“Finally, there is the current concern over Avian Influenza. While the risk to human health remains very low, overwrought press comment could seriously damage consumer confidence in eggs and poultry, and the threat to the birds is real. With vigilance and well-designed counter-measures this should be controllable providing that the industry works closely with those responsible in Defra.
“Despite these threats we believe that the dedication, professionalism and resilience of UK Eggs Ltd will see the industry emerge to enjoy a successful and profitable future. After all, we produce one of the most wonderful foods designed by nature.”