The Joint Committee has examined the amended proposal for a Council Regulation laying down common standards for the water content of frozen and deep-frozen fowl carcases [R/3120/75 (AGR1 822)].
Regulation No. 2777/75 of 29th October, 1975 dealing with the common organisation of the market in poultrymeat, provides for the adoption of marketing standards which are aimed at improving the quality of poultry products. The present proposal which is an amendment of an earlier proposal by the Commission is an attempt to further that aim in a particular direction. It calls for the adoption of a Council Regulation to fix a common standard within the Community for the water content of frozen and deep-frozen fowl carcases. Research conducted by the Member States has established that the limit of foreign water absorbed by a fowl carcase during preparation can be accurately determined. The necessary tests in this country were conducted by the Agricultural Institute.
2. The Proposed Regulation
Article 1 lays down a water content limit of eight per cent. Articles 2 and 3 are concerned with control procedures. The control/analysis techniques are specified in Annexes I and II. Article 4 provides that a lot with a water content exceeding eight per cent may not be marketed in its existing state and that the holder of such a lot is liable for the cost of control and analyses. Each Member State is obliged to establish a control agency and prescribe penalties for infringement of the Regulation.
The proposal has been examined by a sub-committee of technical experts and it is currently being considered by a Council working party. It is understood from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries that acceptance of the proposed Regulation in its present form is unlikely: differences between Member States about methods of testing are proving difficult to reconcile. The proposed arrangements are, therefore, unlikely to become operative from 1st May, 1976 as intended.
3. Position in Ireland
Irish poultry exports are in the region of £1 million per annum—mainly to the U.K. and Northern Ireland. Seventy to eighty per cent of our poultry production is freshmeat. Tests have shown that the water content of our frozen poultry at three to four per cent is well below European standards. Consequently complying with the proposal does not present any special problems for Irish producers.
Imports of frozen poultry carcases from Northern Ireland, which commenced recently, evoked representations from producers and those in the processing businesses that such imports seriously threatened the home market. It is understood that these imports have been prohibited temporarily and that the matter is being pursued with the Commission by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It would appear that one important element which gives the Northern Ireland trade an unfair advantage is the system of national aids available there and no doubt a strong protest will be made to the Commission about this. It is not clear to what extent adoption of the proposal regarding water content would place our processing industry in an unfair competitive position vis-á-vis its Northern Ireland competitors but obviously this is another aspect which merits serious consideration.
4. Implementation of the Regulation
It is understood that, if and when the Regulation, possibly in amended form, is adopted, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries will make a statutory instrument establishing a control agency, prescribing penalties, etc. It is expected that the required inspection work will be performed by the existing inspectorate in the Department.
(Signed) CHARLES J. HAUGHEY,
Chairman of the Joint Committee.
24th March, 1976.