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Having to put your eggs in one basket.

Byline: KEITH HENDERSON

THE light at the end of the tunnel has been replaced with a smaller, more energy efficient one!

The financial credit crunch will affect the UK poultry industry just at a time when the need for capital investment over the next three years is at its highest for generations.

The egg sector either has to convert to the new colony laying systems or free range production by 2012 and this will have huge financial implications for many existing and future poultry farmers.

An example of these costs was brought home to me by a new development that we have just stocked. A 32,000-bird free range building will have cost just short of pounds 900,000 before one penny of income is made.

Scaled up we still have 10 million birds to convert to alternative systems - something that will either cost our industry pounds 250 million or result in our industry being exported overseas. The Ukraine, for example, is already building enriched cage units (colony systems to us) for the export market, with one company building a nine million bird unit.

As more producers invest in replacing cage production with the new colony system, the NFU is now pushing for a new marketing term and new code number (4) instead of (3) - which denotes cage production.

This could give producers a premium over conventional cage eggs especially as the cost of production is up approximately five pence a dozen for the new system. It would also help address consumer confusion after the cage ban in 2012.

Also, if it was made clear that the conventional cage system was no longer acceptable in the UK and across the EU, possible imports of cheap eggs from third countries would be harder to accept. The NFU is also lobbying in Brussels to try and address this potential pitfall.

One of the most discussed topics over the past six months has been the implications of the Salmonella National Control Programme for layer flocks.

This piece of legislation has for many family-run poultry farms been the final straw and where they had intended to stay in production until 2012 they have now decided to wind up their businesses early.

As for the rest of the industry we must play Russian Roulette every time we send a sample to be tested. As far as broilers are concerned, the national control plan is the subject of consultation.

Under the proposals all flocks will be tested within three weeks of slaughter and from January, official tests will be done each year on 10% of those holdings with more than 5,000 birds - with one flock per holding tested. I hope I am not being too cynical but I doubt that all EU countries' inspectorates will follow these regulations with as much enthusiasm as our own!

On a lighter note, we are urging as many people as possible to visit the Christmas turkey website, which offers a listing of local producers, recipes and cooking tips plus lots of fun stuff too. The site can be found at: www.ukturkeys.co.uk Keith Henderson is a Newcastle poultry farmer and chairman of the NFU's regional poultry board

The Christmas website offers a list of local producers, recipes and tips plus lots of fun stuff
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 29, 2008
Words:547
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