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SUSTAINABILITY Selling a few eggs is no simple thing

Outdoor Living
Farmers are being discouraged from selling their produce locally.
Farmers are being discouraged from selling their produce locally.

Red-tape is stifling opportunities for local produce

Thirteen page Department dictat currently regulates egg selling

Food matters
Chris Brown

AN old farmer offered me some advice on buying and selling.  “Always buy cheap and sell dear”, he told me, as this, in his opinion, was the formula for success.
I realised straight away that there was a problem with this plan: it is hopelessly one-sided and could not work fairly. If you buy cheap, whoever you bought from had to sell cheap and, likewise, if you sell dear the purchaser had to buy dear. 
Asking your trading partners to do the opposite to yourself - to buy dear and sell cheap - is not going to catch on!
As ever a balance needs to be struck that’s fair to both sides: buy at the right price, sell at the right price. Regular sales and purchases, which must take proper account of production costs, is the best way to get enterprises going, and the people you trade with may well become your friends.
A ready supply of sales is needed to make primary food production worthwhile and fund the creation of employment which is necessary to take things forward.  The suggestion is that in Mayo there is still enough clean soil for the cultivation of potatoes, herbs and salad, oats and other cereals, poultry, pigs, milk, fruit, vegetables, etc, as well as other fuels, and some study should be done into how to get things growing. Some type of consultation for those with ‘hands on’ experience would be a start.
The current state of affairs regarding sales is a pure disaster, with Eurocrats making up rules in some posh hotel in mainland Europe that make straightforward transactions unworkable.  Take the regulations involving the sale of eggs as an example.

Egg sales
My friend, who runs a shop in Westport, tells me there is a healthy demand for quality hand-gathered eggs but he is not allowed to sell them unless they are supplied by someone who’s registered, so I phoned up the Department Of Agriculture for a copy of the registration forms.
On the phone I was told that my flock size of thirty-something hens was too small (the minimum being fifty) to be registered, and that with that many birds I would only be able to sell eggs door-to-door. The thirteen pages of regulations (printed on one side only) arrived and I’ll mention just 2 points here:
Under the heading ‘Starting Up’ it says, ‘the site must not be stocked prior to an official inspection’. 
The department’s inspectors are authorised to carry out regular and unannounced visits and you must give them access to premises where eggs are produced, marketed or handled.
The second point under the title ‘Non-Compliance With The Regulations’ is, ‘eggs being marketed illegally are liable to be seized by the Department. 
In addition, the national legislation makes provision for prosecution of offenders with penalties of fines and/or imprisonment’.
This approach, not to get any chickens until you have agreed to inspectors landing at your home any time that suits them or else they will take your eggs off you and might throw you in prison, is hardly going to encourage people to house some poultry and supply some food.
Hens’ eggs are not a dangerous commodity. So long as you don’t throw them at a passing politician such as John Prescott, eggs are not only safe, they are a highly nutritious food packed with protein.
With many people facing financial hardship, producing eggs is a great way to take steps to feed a family, and rules about eggs should be sourced far closer to home.

NEXT TIME Food labelling

Chris Brown is a food producer in Louisburgh. He has a particular interest in food miles and buying local.