North­ern Views

Su­per­mar­kets hatch a profit

The Poultry Bulletin - - CONTENTS - By Gineke Mons

Dutch pro­duc­ers of free range out­door eggs are pretty pissed. They have had to keep their hens in­doors for more than twelve weeks now, which means that their eggs are be­ing de­graded from ex­clu­sive out­door free range eggs to reg­u­lar free range eggs - which is cost­ing them a lot of money.

This win­ter, high num­bers of wild wa­ter­fowl in Europe were in­fected with highly path­o­genic Avian In­fluenza. When those mi­grat­ing birds fly over com­mer­cial free-rang­ing chick­ens in a pas­ture, their drop­pings can in­fect them with the AI virus.

Num­bers of pro­fes­sional poul­try es­tab­lish­ments in Hun­gary, France, Ger­many and Great Bri­tain be­came in­fected. So as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, free rang­ing chick­ens in the EU had to be kept in­doors. In the Nether­lands, we had five Ai-out­breaks on turkey, duck and chicken farms.

Of the to­tal Dutch egglay­ing poul­try pop­u­la­tion, roughly 5 mil­lion (17 per­cent) are free-rang­ing out­door chick­ens. They are housed in a large barn that also fea­tures a sort of cov­ered porch, and they must have ac­cess to the free out­doors as well. Per hen, a min­i­mum of four square me­tres is re­quired; so one hectare per 2 500 hens. Con­sid­er­ing the Dutch farm­land prices, those ‘code 1’ free range eggs are con­sid­er­ably more ex­pen­sive to pro­duce than the reg­u­lar in­door free range eggs (code 2).

In the Nether­lands, out­door hens had to be kept in­doors as from Novem­ber 9. For twelve weeks, un­til Fe­bru­ary 1, farm­ers could still sell those eggs as code 1 out­door-eggs, at roughly 8,5 to 9,5 Euro­cents (around R1,20 per egg). But on Fe­bru­ary 2, those eggs be­came reg­u­lar free range eggs, code 2. For those eggs, farm­ers are paid only 5,7 Euro­cents (R0,77). Which means 36 % less while all other costs re­main the same.

But the prover­bial mud re­ally hit the fan when farm­ers found out that the su­per­mar­kets kept sell­ing the eggs for the reg­u­lar out­door­free-range price to con­sumers. Chair­woman Hen­nie de Haan (no joke, that’s her real name) of the Dutch union of poul­try pro­duc­ers, is fu­ri­ous.

“The re­tail sec­tor sells those eggs, for which they pay only 5,7 cents, for prices rang­ing from 21 to 31 Euro­cents,” she scolds with rage. “No one can do any­thing about this bird flu sit­u­a­tion, but the same su­per­mar­kets that pro­mote fair trade and sus­tain­abil­ity, now make a profit at the cost of the farm­ers.”

In Bel­gium, su­per­mar­kets add a sticker on those egg car­tons ex­plain­ing that the free range hens un­for­tu­nately have to stay in­side tem­po­rar­ily.

“Those farm­ers are paid the reg­u­lar price for out­door free range eggs. Why can’t that be done here in Hol­land as well?,” De Haan asks.

Dutch politi­cians have promised to look into the mat­ter, and urge su­per­mar­kets to pay farm­ers the reg­u­lar price for code 1 eggs.

The fact that the code 1 eggs are cur­rently out of stock, is also in­flu­enc­ing the mar­ket. The Dutch egg sec­tor ex­ports two-thirds of its pro­duc­tion. But im­porters from other EU coun­tries pre­fer the ‘one stop shop’, and if the Dutch pack­ing sta­tions can’t de­liver free range out­door eggs, they look for other sup­pli­ers who can, and buy the other egg types there as well. So the Dutch or­gan­i­sa­tion of egg traders, An­evei, is plead­ing to end the manda­tory in­door con­fine­ment very quickly. Be­cause in France and Spain out­door free range eggs are back on the mar­ket, as well as in parts of Ger­many and in the UK…

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.