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"The EU Legislators did not fully consider what impacts the banning of conventional cages would have on the future development of egg production and the resulting egg deficit." With this quote of Professor Hans Windhorst underlined in an interview with Terry Evans (ThePoultrySite, 2009) what he had predicted during his presentation at the ISAH meeting in St. Malo, France in 2004.
Given the ongoing discussions on cage systems in othe parts of the word, Professor Windhorst expert opinion (although expressed in 2009) is still extremely interesting.
He pointed out that the switch from conventional cages to enriched cages, floor management or free-range systems would inevitably lead to higher production costs. Economists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have shown that production costs in enriched cages would increase by some eight per cent over those of conventional cages. In the German small colony system, the extra costs would be of the order of 10 per cent, while switching to the barn system in the Netherlands would result in costs rising by 21 per cent.
"On the cost of switching away from conventional cages, an investment as high as €6.1 billion would be required. In Germany alone, some €612 million would be needed to meet the existing legal regulations by the end of 2009."
He believes that it is not realistic to assume that this capital would be available under present financial and economic conditions, and he wonders how the EU would react when the member countries failed to fulfil the requirements of the Directive.
He observed that it was obvious that legislators in the EU as well as at the country level in Germany did not fully consider what impacts the banning of conventional cages would have on the future development of egg production and the resulting egg deficit.
Because German retailers would not stock eggs from the small colony system, large egg producers in that country realised that they would not be able to switch to floor management systems by the end of 2009.
This would result in "Financial losses for production companies, higher consumer prices and increasing imports of shell eggs and egg products," Professor Windhorst concluded in his interview with ThePoultrySite in 2009.