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Farming unions call on EU to protect UK egg producers

Staff writer |
Britain's farming unions are calling on European politicians to protect the country's egg producers in any European Union trade deals with other countries.

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The National Farmers' Union (NFU), together with the farming unions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, made the appeal in a manifesto produced ahead of the May elections to the European Parliament.

The ballot is being held to directly elect more than 700 MEPs to the European Parliament and the farming unions produced the manifesto to put their case to those seeking election, reports farminguk.com.

"We are calling on members of the European Parliament to help maximise the potential of our industry and create a policy environment in which our farmers and growers can thrive," said NFU president Meurig Raymond.

One of the issues raised in the manifesto was that of international trade and the negotiations currently taking place between the European Union and a number of other countries.

"The EU is in the process of negotiating preferential trade agreements with an unprecedented number of third country partners," said the unions in the document.

"According to the European Commission, if it were to complete all its current free trade talks tomorrow, this would add 2.2 per cent or €275 billion to the GDP of the EU. This is the equivalent of adding a country as big as Austria or Denmark to the EU economy.

"We strongly believe that the EU should seek balanced trade agreements and should there be negative impacts, it is appropriate for farmers to be compensated through adjustment mechanisms. Some trade agreements are likely to benefit UK agriculture by expanding the opportunities for exports. However, freeing up trade may also make it more difficult for some UK farmers to compete with imports."

The United Kingdom egg industry has expressed concern that any agreements should include some protection for European egg producers, who are required by EU regulation to abide by higher welfare standards.

A regulation banning the use of conventional battery cages came into force on January 1, 2012. The fear is that if trade deals are signed with countries with lower welfare standards, European egg producers would be unable to compete with the price of imported egg.

One potential trade deal under discussion would create a Transatlantic trading agreement with the United States. It is understood that European Union negotiators are seeking sensitive product status for eggs in their talks with their American counterparts. It would mean that a quota would apply to the number of eggs that could enter the EU tariff free. Egg imports above the agreed quota would be subject to tariffs in the normal way.