The government is being urged to take action to help the UK’s poultry industry.

Rising welfare standards are adding increasing costs to the sector which is putting it at a disadvantage against foreign competitors, a Commons inquiry has stated.

The report, by the environment, food and rural affairs select committee, said importers selling into the UK market should be expected to meet the same standards as UK producers.

It called on the government to work with the rest of Europe to ensure all poultrymeat and eggs should conform to the same standards expected of EU producers.

Committee chairman David
Taylor MP said: “Higher standards cannot be forced on UK producers if we do not expect foreign producers to achieve the same standards.

“To allow chicken and eggs to be sold in this country which do not meet the standards accepted here does not allow our producers to compete on a level playing field.”

The NFU said the extra welfare costs, coupled with trade liberalisation that encourages cheaper imports, was putting the industry under financial pressure.

Poultry chairman Charles Bourns said: “British farmers are incredulous when their efforts to produce high welfare standards are undermined by imports produced to lower standards.”

The NFU said that of the 1.7 million tonnes of poultrymeat annually consumed in Britain, 350,000 is imported, a three-fold rise in the last 10 years, and worth £277m.

Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council, said: “We are delighted this committee has recognised the need to ensure UK consumers can continue to enjoy British eggs produced to the highest standards.”
Ed Bedington