The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and Queensland United Egg Producers (QUEP) are carefully considering the ministerial endorsement of a national update to the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry (S&G) following a joint meeting of the federal and all state agriculture ministers in Perth last week.
QFF CEO Jo Sheppard said the update to the S&G, which governs the way hens are cared for on egg and poultry-meat farms, was met with mixed reactions by egg producers following years of deliberation.
“While QFF welcomes the update of the standards following many years of uncertainty for the egg and poultry industries, the update to the guidelines has left cage egg producers very much in a state of uncertainty without providing a definitive date for the phasing out of conventional cage egg production,” said Ms Sheppard.
As part of the update to the S&G, conventional cage egg production will be phased out, with each state left to decide the timeframe for this transition.
A previous draft of the S&G had set a deadline for an end to conventional cages by 2036, however this date is 10 years earlier than the 2046 deadline the egg industry had requested.
“QFF strongly supports industry’s request for a 2046 deadline to ensure that producers are given enough time to make the necessary adjustments to their operations,” said Ms Sheppard.
“With cage eggs currently making up approximately 50 per cent of the nation’s total egg production, phasing out cage egg production too quickly, or indeed unnecessarily, will place significant strain on producers who are already battling increasing input costs, workforce shortages and supply chain delays, while trying to meet market demand.
“Australian farmers lead the world when it comes to strong animal welfare practices, and this must be acknowledged. We need to be careful in finding a balance between responding to further enhancements to these practices and maintaining sustainable food production to ensure affordable and accessible food, and in this case protein, is available for everyone.
“Consumers across the country are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Eggs remain one of the best, and most affordable, sources of protein, and a premature end to cage egg production will mean consumers will be paying more for their eggs at the checkout.
“There is also the risk of Australian egg producers not being able to meet demand until conversions have been fully implemented thus increasing the risk of retailers requesting importation of fresh eggs for sale. So even if consumers are fortunate enough to be able to pay more for their eggs, they may find themselves in a situation where eggs just aren’t available.
“QFF will be working closely with industry and the Queensland Government to ensure that clarity for egg producers in Queensland is reached as soon as possible so they can prepare for their future.”
QUEP CEO John Coward said egg producers in Queensland were left frustrated given that a definitive and appropriate date for the phase out of cage eggs across Australia was not set as part of the deliberations.
“We are pleased the process is reaching its conclusion after years of uncertainty that has led to poor investment and shortages for the egg industry in Australia,” said Mr Coward.
“However, it is now absolutely appropriate that the industry would expect that they could get a sense of clarity at this critical juncture by authorities in each state harmonising the date of banning conventional cage egg production.
“Unfortunately, the decision to not provide a set date for the whole of Australia means individual states will now be left to determine their own parameters, which is not within the egg industry’s expectations to have a unified approach.
“Variations in a phase out date for each state will impact how the standards and guidelines are practically implemented along with the associated legislation, which could lead to variances in how each state can meet supply demands impacting fair competition in the national market.”
Mr Coward said despite this, the egg industry in Queensland is looking forward to working with the Queensland Government to establish clarity on the phase out of cage egg production in the state.
“We would request that due consideration is given to a phase out deadline of 2046, given that a timeframe less than this would result in significant compensation needed for our producers.”
Corporate Partnerships and Communications Manager, QFF
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