Farmers’ associations in France have attacked the European Commission for a 'lack of regulation' that has led to an overproduction of eggs and a drop of prices below production costs.
Farmers' have destroyed hundreds of thousands of eggs in protest against falling prices, asking for measures at national and European level to redress the situation that has seen egg prices fall lower than the cost of production due to overproduction.
According to the National Federation of Agricultural Producers (FNSEA) - the main farmers’ syndicate in France - egg producers have been forced to increase production to compensate for the investments they made in response to a 2012 Commission directive on animal welfare.
In addition, the Farmers' union argue that the Commission is responsible for abolishing a refunds scheme that subsidised the export of certain goods to non-EU countries. Farmers argued that until the refunds were abolished, egg exports received them - something that they believe has now made eggs more difficult to export.
The EC directive, which came in to force in January 2012, brought in rules that laying hens should have cages with a separate nesting area, enough space for all hens to access feed at the same time, perches for resting, and scrapers to shorten claws.
The cost of upgrades brought about by the regulations are around €20 per hen, according to farmers.
Many farmers covered the costs by expanding their flocks, and so increasing production and profits.
However, with so many farmers increasing production, and with no regulation, mass overproduction has led to lower prices.
European Commission spokesperson Roger Waite responded to the claims commenting that although the new directive on battery cages had become effective in January 2012, it had been in preparation since 1999 and farmers were aware of that.
Waite also said the problem was not linked to the battery cages, but rather to the fact that producers were producing more chickens.
He added that the Commission remained optimistic that the market would react and that production would decrease in the coming months, enabling prices to pick up.
Waite added that supermarkets were forcing down prices and that the issue was about 'fair distribution of the costs' in the food chain, adding that the Commission was confident that the French government was taking measures in this respect.