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“Part-organic” pullet standard to be extended

Date Published: 02/06/2011

Organic egg producers are to be allowed to continue sourcing “part-organic” pullets into 2012 following a failure by the EU to establish a full organic standard.

Defra has confirmed that the EU has given the go-ahead for the interim measure, allowing pullets to be reared to organic feed and veterinary standards before transfer to organic laying systems, to remain in place beyond it’s previously announced expiry date of December 31, 2011.

Leading organic control body, Organic Farmers & Growers, has welcomed the news, in the light of the failure for EU-wide organic pullet standards to be agreed.

A requirement remains in place for organic pullets to be used where they are available, however the minimal supply of fully organic pullets led to the introduction of birds reared to the interim feed and veterinary standards – or “part-organic” as they have come to be known.

The inability of the EU Commission to finalise and introduce a full organic pullet standard has left the sector in a state of limbo, with rearers reluctant to invest in units for producing completely organic pullets without knowing what the standard will precisely require.

Chief Executive of Organic Farmers & Growers, Richard Jacobs, said: “This is something of a good news and bad news development. The bad news is that we still don’t have a standard for organic pullets and we still don’t have a deadline for that to happen which the sector can work to. It’s another failure by the EU to see expected regulation changes through in a timely fashion. To produce a fully organic pullet, rearers may have to make outdoor space available, amongst other requirements, and that means investment and a long lead-in to allow for planning permission and other considerations. They badly need a proper timescale for this.

“The good news at least is that we won’t be left without a supply of pullets for organic laying units come January next year. Where organic chicks can’t be sourced, producers will be able to continue with the part-organic option and that will allow for continuity of supply for the time being.”

Farmers wishing to source the part-organic pullets will continue to require a derogation from OF&G for their use, though they also retain the option to take non-organic chicks onto their units at no more than three days of age and rear them to full organic standards, though this is a somewhat limited option due to the degree of specialism required.

No time scale has been put on the continued use of part-organic pullets or when an agreed standard for fully-organic pullets can be expected to be added to the EU Organic Regulation. Defra has indicated that it would expect the current arrangements to continue for at least 12 months past the December 2011 deadline and further clarification is expected in due course.

Mr Jacobs added: “What we need to see now is an agreed organic pullet rearing standard to be introduced as soon as possible and, once we reach that point, there needs to be at least an 18-month transition period to allow the rearers to make and carry out their plans to meet the market need. It’s not something they can do overnight. Unfortunately we have been discussing this issue for a number of years now and we don’t seem to be any further forward, we’re just delaying what’s inevitable, and desirable, once again.”