Poultry and pig schemes outlined
Up to 1.2m laying hens in Ireland will be transferred to enriched cages as a result of the €16m poultry cage conversion scheme, which was announced recently by agriculture minister Brendan Smith.
The Irish Egg Association described the scheme as vital funding to secure the future of the Irish egg industry.
"Irish people want to eat Irish eggs and the industry faces significant funding challenges for the future to meet the needs of the new EU legislation," said John Mohan, chairman of the Irish Egg Association.
Under the new EU laying hens directive, all eggs must be produced using enriched cages, barn or free-range systems from January 1, 2012.
To comply with the directive, Irish egg farmers will need to invest at least €40m over the next two years to convert to the new enriched-cage system.
Existing cages provide 550cm2 of space per bird, whereas the new enriched cages will give 750cm2 per bird. Enriched cages also have other features such as additional perches and scratch areas.
However, a small number of producers who have already converted to enriched cages will lose out on funding because the scheme will only be open to existing producers and cannot be applied retrospectively.
Meanwhile, pig farmers have welcomed the €13m scheme for converting sows to loose housing. This was also outlined recently by the minister. IFA pig chairman Tim Cullinan described the funding as essential to enable farmers to comply with the new EU directive due to come into force in 2013.