The Ranger magazine is the leading authority in free range production. Published monthly by the British Free Range Egg Producers Association it is available to members in printed format and digital download. To access back issues you have to be a member of the Association.
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Covid-19 has shown how vulnerable an underfunded free range sector is to life’s curveballs, yet despite the challenges we have handled it efficiently.
The market is now starting to stabilise as panic buying eases and the Government starts to consider how it intends guide us through the next stages. We have though, seen a vision of the potential for increased demand and who knows, consumers’ newfound love of baking may continue unabated past the lockdown.
Whilst this virus has highlighted plenty of failings for the country to address it is not yet the time to disseminate the issues faced in the timeline, for our industry it has shown how a poor producer price has consequences, not just for welfare, but also for continuation of supply in a tight market.
The market was tight going into these extraordinary events and reached levels unseen by free range egg producers, yet margins remain at their lowest for several years.
The retailers are now desperate for any surplus and are paying prices that put to shame already agreed contract commitments. I am sure any producer with private sales has been inundated with calls from retailers, farm shops and the general public desperate for free range egg as supermarket shelves remain empty.
Demand for laying hens has also increased, but our message is clear that BFREPA do not encourage backyard hens, especially as we are still facing the threat of avian influenza. Many producers are still battling issues with staff, social distancing, catchers or supplies and all these issues have a monetary value which come off the margin.
Over the last few weeks BFREPA has been advising members to check their AI insurance.
There are some sizeable discrepancies in the small print of these insurances which are reflected in the varying prices for cover. When is AI Insurance not AI insurance? The answer is only disclosed when you come to claim. The common law principle of caveat emptor, ‘let the buyer beware’, means that the onus is on the egg producer to ensure the insurance they are buying is fit for purpose. Some insurers cover for all variants of AI, but only when the DEFRA vet is called to test. Others do not cover for low path or certain strains.
Make sure that your insurance covers all strains and all circumstances under your control. The same applies to Salmonella. One member informed me that the terms and conditions of their insurance for Salmonella states that if they are within a catchment area of an outbreak their insurance becomes void. Insurance is no good if you are not going to be able to claim outside of any parameters that are not under your control and it is no good if the policy is cancelled when the threat grows.