CHEAP eggs could be set to flood into the UK when a Europe-wide ban on cages comes into force, scientists have warned.
The European Union will become a net importer of eggs by 2012 as more shoppers elect to buy non-European eggs which are produced to far poorer standards of welfare.
This is the view of Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst, a German statistical scientist who has been studying the projected impact of a ban on cages for hens in Europe.
Mr Windhorst said the ban will "distort" the European egg market, fuelling a flood of imports of cheap eggs and cause further shrinkage in the EU flock.
The UK has seen a drop of 16.3 per cent in egg production from 2002 to 2007, a decline Prof Windhorst attributes to retailers refraining from selling cage eggs.
And with a further decrease of 6-7 million laying eggs expected by the end of 2009 a total of two billion eggs will have to be imported to meet domestic demand.
The European Union has passed a ban on all battery hen cages which is due to come into force by 2012. The ban is leaving many poultry farmers in a situation where they need to invest in new "colony enrichment" cages which comply with the legislation.
Kevin Coles, of the industry body the British Egg Information Service, said: "It is very important that British producers are not disadvantaged by imports from other countries producing eggs which do not meet the required standards and the British Egg Industry Council will continue to lobby both the UK Government and the EU to ensure that the legislation is implemented equally across Europe."