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15 December 2011

Director of Policy Report - 12th December 2011

What an amazing first month! Our Chairman has tasked me to get out and about and learn about the industry and, with the help of BFREPA members and others working in the sector, I’ve been given a great start to understanding current issues.

I’ve visited smaller producers on mobile units and the larger operators with multiple fixed sheds; a variety of producer packers from the north of Scotland to south of England; policy makers in Defra to egg marketing inspectors in the AHVLA; and those interfacing along the supply chain such as feed mills, pullet rearers and the larger packers. In between these visits I have attended a Council meeting, the Conference, and Defra conference calls.

What has become clear in my travels is that the challenges facing free range egg producers are not unique. The classic squeeze of high input (feed) costs and low product prices is, or has been, prevalent in many other sectors – from pigs to potatoes and milk to meat – and is indeed typical of many primary commodity producers. There are no quick fixes but the Chairman has asked me to present to Council on 24 January some tools used in other sectors which may be helpful in turning things round. As with many commodity markets, input and output prices can be cyclical and so it is welcome to see in this edition of the Ranger that Friday’s is increasing prices and that other packers are considering price increases at the same time as feed costs are falling.

One of the points made to me by many members is that BFREPA must use its membership strength to apply some leverage on those setting egg prices. For this to happen, membership must continue to grow so that the industry can be seen to be represented as a whole and, even more importantly, that there is consensus as to the way forward.

I plan to report in future editions of this column on the steps I will be taking to help BFREPA members look to the future with more confidence. In the meantime I would like to thank all those producer members and Council members who have hosted me and shared their knowledge with me over the last month.