Farmers have called on the retail sector to support the free range sector as the Department of Agriculture confirmed it is to extend its mandatory housing notice for poultry until April 30.
Due to the restrictions the Department of Agriculture has confirmed that processors, producers and retailers in the egg and poultry sector will no longer be able to use the free range label after March 17.
IFA Poultry Chairman Nigel Renaghan has called on the retail sector to work with the processing industry and put in place alternative labelling arrangements that inform consumers of the situation and comply with marketing regulations.
He said the retail sector must support the free range sector during this difficult period, and give a firm commitment that no reduction in price will be sought for poultry products produced from free range poultry farms.
“All free range production in Ireland come from small, independently-run family farms whose existence will be threatened if there is any reduction in the price they receive for their eggs or broilers.
“Free range production comes with increased costs and requires significant investment in infrastructure over many years.
“Similar long term investments have been made by the processing industry in marketing the free range poultry products.
“A significant premium is required to justify the extra costs and standards associated with free range production; these extra costs are in no way removed from the production system due to the current temporary housing restriction.”
Nigel Renaghan said the Department of Agriculture has been very proactive in measures taken to protect the national flock and farmers have complied with these restrictions as required.
“Any attempts to reduce the value of poultry products derived from free range farmers could have a detrimental effect on the long term sustainability of this important sector of Irish agriculture,” he said.
Ireland had 12 incidences of bird flu since December as wild birds migrated. Today's announcement means that free range eggs will no longer be available in shops as under EU regulations eggs and poultry meat can marketed as 'free range' for the duration of the restriction but not for more than 12 weeks.
In Ireland's case, the 12-week period expires on March 17.