The UK's organic poultry and egg market faces being "killed off" unless the EC can be persuaded not to push ahead with new rules on organic feed, producers are warning.

At present, organic feed can contain up to 5% of non-organic raw material, but this is due to be cut to zero as of January 2012.

There are also EC proposals to require organic poultry producers to source at least 50% of the feed they use from 'local or regional' sources as of next year.

The plans were of "great concern" to the organic poultry and egg industry, said NFU chief poultry adviser Kelly Watson. "The UK is only about 50% self-sufficient in organic wheat which makes up about 60% of a broiler feed ration so we have to import a lot from Eastern Europe," she said. If 'region' were defined by the EC as meaning the UK, this would "kill organic poultry off", she said.

The British Poultry Council said diets could not currently be formulated using 100% organic raw materials without compromising bird welfare, as organic feed with the right protein levels was hard to source. It is lobbying the EC to allow the industry more time to try different feeds before committing to 100% organic raw materials. "The poultry sector must continue to have access to high-protein Eastern European grain to avoid welfare problems," a spokeswoman said, adding there would be "a very substantial reduction" in UK organic poultry production if the changes came in.

A move to 100% organic feed has been on the cards since 2007, and the percentage of non-organic materials allowed in organic feed has gradually fallen over the past few years.

Watson said the industry had previously thought the EC simply wanted feed sourced 'primarily' from local and regional sources and had not been aware of the 50% target until an EU meeting in May.

Soil Association head of standards Chris Atkinson said some producers and feed suppliers were already meeting the 100% requirements and it was helping others through the change.

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