A DEROGATION allowing organic egg farmers in Northern Ireland to produce eggs to the same standards as in Great Britain has been extended for 12 months, prompting sector relief.

There were fears that rule changes that would have come into force at the end of February would have added cost to farmers in the country who primarily export eggs into GB.

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There are some 35 organic egg farms in Northern Ireland producing 250,000 eggs a day, 85% of which end up in GB.

The Ulster Farmers Union recently submitted evidence to a House of Lords committee highlighting how rule changes threatened the sector.

In it, the union said: “In November 2022, UFU became aware of a disparity relating to organic egg feed regulations in EU vs UK for diets fed to ‘young birds’.

Cost disparity

“The differential was a requirement that feed rations produced should contain 100% organic ingredients as per EU regulations, rather than UK regulations which were formulated to 95% organic ingredient inclusion.

“Concerns were raised at that stage around nutritional stability of the diets, detrimental effect on egg yolk colour, as well as a cost disparity with GB producers.”

“GB organic legislation is currently under review, with no publication likely until the end of 2025.

“Until then, GB farmers will continue to produce organic egg according to retained legislation (834/2007 & 889/2008).

Extension

“In essence this sets their production cost at circa 5 pence per egg lower than NI producers who comply with the feed measures within 848/2018.

“These costs cannot be absorbed by the NI industry. The derogation should be extended until after the publication of GB’s revised organic legislation.”

The UFU’s Alexander Kinnear told Poultry.Network that the derogation had once again been extended, for another 12 months.

However, he described the measure as a ‘sticking plaster’ and called for a permanent resolution to the issue.