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Article by Shannon Beattie, Farm Weekly, Fairfax Media
A PETITION is calling for an inquiry into the state of the Western Australia's egg industry over major concerns about its viability.
The petition, which included more than 1000 signatures, was started by the Commercial Egg Producers Association of WA (CEPA WA) and presented to Agricultural Region MP Colin de Grussa last Thursday.
CEPA WA started the petition in light of high feed costs associated with drought, the decision by Coles Group supermarkets to cease the sale of cage eggs in WA without consultation with industry and claims that price increases were not being passed on to egg producers by the major supermarkets.
President Ian Wilson said the future of the industry was under serious threat from the issues cited in the petition, which are shared by the majority of commercial egg producers.
"We believe an inquiry is the most sensible way to address these issues and find a way forward in the best interest of everyone - producers, retailers and consumers," Mr Wilson said.
Mr de Grussa said the petition demonstrated the weight of support behind an industry which was important to many families and shoppers across WA.
"The drought has had an extraordinary impact on the cost of production for our egg farmers, with feed prices skyrocketing - but the big supermarkets don't seem to care," Mr de Grussa said.
"The current pricing model adopted by the major supermarkets is simply not sustainable and not reflective of the true cost of production."
Mr Wilson is hopeful a Legislative Council inquiry will look into key issues including egg shortages in WA supermarkets, egg pricing decisions, including why WA has lower egg prices than any other State or Territory and the ability of suppliers to renegotiate prices when impacted by seasonal events.
"The main ongoing issue is sustainable pricing - like dairy farmers we are impacted by seasonal events and struggle to negotiate sustainable pricing with the major supermarkets," Mr Wilson said.
"Many commercial egg producers are suffering financial stress and simply cannot afford to invest in their businesses to meet current and future supply requirements.
"We cannot afford to find ourselves in the same situation as the dairy industry, so we are requesting an inquiry as soon as possible to avoid egg shortages and a future of job losses, higher prices and the potential of imported eggs."
Other key issues which the petition called for the inquiry to consider include supermarket auditing, traceability processes and standards to ensure consumers are getting what they pay for and clarification on the support measures major supermarkets would provide to help commercial egg producers potentially expand free-range egg production systems.