The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) is calling for an effective intra-EU ban on the trade of egg and egg products produced by conventionally caged (‘battery’) hens from entering the UK market from the beginning of next year.

At a reception hosted by The Earl of Shrewsbury and Waterford, at the House of Lords this week, Mark Williams, chief executive of the BEIC said it was there to try and avoid the potential disaster that was heading towards the egg industry.

He said producers had spent £400m in preparation for the new law, coming in on 1 January 2012, which prohibits the use of conventional cages for laying eggs, but he said that not all producers in the EU would comply with the ban and that current enforcement measures were totally ineffective.

According to the BEIC the latest data has indicated that 23% of EU egg production is forecast to be ’illegal’ on 1 January 2012, but Williams said the real problem was that it would cost 8-10% less to produce an egg from a conventional cage, than the cheapest legal alternative from this date, putting UK producers’ livelihoods at risk.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord Henley said that it was important the UK egg industry was allowed to operate on a level playing field. He said the UK government would play a full part in EU discussions, and would work with the European Commission on what was possible.