BRITISH EGG producers have raised the alarm over the Conservative Government's failure to impose tariffs against imports of eggs – fresh, liquid or powdered – from overseas production systems with lower hen welfare and environmental standards than those required by British law.

The domestic egg industry has welcomed repeated Government commitments to uphold production standards in this country after Brexit, but has noted that it has avoided committing to actual measures to prevent cheap battery cage eggs reaching the UK market.

British Free Range Egg Producers Association chief executive, Robert Gooch, said: “My members have led the world in pioneering high-welfare free range egg production for more than 30 years but face the very real threat of being undercut by a tidal wave of eggs from hens kept in conditions which are illegal in this country. We again call on the Government to reassure British free range egg producers that their livelihoods will be not be exported abroad during trade negotiations and ask for the current level of egg tariffs to remain post Brexit.”

The British Egg Industry Council, in partnership with Compassion in World Farming and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, recently wrote to the Secretary of State at the Dept for International Trade, Liz Truss and at DEFRA, George Eustice seeking the inclusion of eggs and egg products in the UK Global Tariff Policy.

In response, the Government said that it remained 'firmly committed' to upholding high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards after leaving the EU.

"The Government also remains committed to promoting robust food safety standards nationally and internationally, to protect consumer interests, and to ensure that consumers can have confidence in the food they buy," continued the statement.

“The Government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any future trade deals live up to the values of farmers, consumers, and businesses across the UK. As set out in our Manifesto, we will drive a hard bargain with all of our trading partners – and, as with all negotiations, we will be prepared to walk away if that is in the national interest. In developing our approach to future trade and upholding domestic standards, we are mindful of the importance processed eggs and similar products play in the market.”

Mr Gooch challenged the depth of this commitment: "British egg producers will be alarmed to see yet another statement from Government which provides platitudes about 'being mindful' of domestic standards without any commitment on the use of import tariffs or any equivalent measures to limit the amount of imported egg products from low welfare systems."

British Egg Industry Council chief executive Mark Williams, commented: “We cannot allow the Government to operate double standards where UK farmers have to continue to produce to high standards, yet allow imports produced to lower or no standards at all – this would be a moral outrage for consumers and catastrophic for our farmers, supply chain and the UK’s reputation for high standards of welfare, environmental protection and producing safe food for consumers.”

RSPCA Head of Public Affairs, David Bowles, said: “Without trade and domestic policy acting in concert, there is every chance that battery caged eggs will be back on the menu and we risk a race to the bottom for our animal welfare and food safety standards.”