EGG PACKERS are lifting farmgate prices as the market remains tight following six weeks of lockdown.
With consumers confined to their homes, retail demand remains high, keeping sales of Lion egg up.
The loss of the catering sector has impacted mainly on wholesalers, processors and importers.
As long as the industry can cope with challenges such as staffing problems, social distancing in the workplace and potential shortages of packaging and protective equipment, it can concentrate on trying to service that demand.
Most of the UK’s larger egg packers have raised their free-range farmgate price in the past weeks, in the main by between 3ppd-5ppd.
Wholesale prices have remained firm on free-range, close to their pre-Christmas levels.
Meanwhile, prices have strengthened considerably for colony eggs, reaching its highest level for two years.
“It’s desperately short at the moment; it’s been a crazy time”, according to Andy Crossland at the Central Egg Agency.
“We’ve seen the foodservice side of things come to a halt, and you would think there’s lots of eggs milling around, looking for a home, but we’ve found that retail has absorbed everything, and would absorb a lot more besides.
“Most packers are looking at what stocks they’ve got on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s nothing of any volume out there; there’s no surplus as such.
“We’ve also got to remember we’ve had [non-notifiable] bird flu in the background which has affected production.
“Wholesale has obviously slowed down. There is Continental egg available, and the bigger wholesalers are running on that at the moment, but then a lot of their trade has stopped anyway.”
Processing had been very quiet, he added, although it had started to recover a little bit.
The shortage of eggs has been intensified by the drop in UK production in the early months of this year, driven by depletions caused by bird flu and a previously oversupplied market.
Total UK output was down by 6,000 cases a week overall in the first quarter, compared with the same period of 2019, with both free-range and colony down by similar amounts (see chart see below).
Barn production was up by 4,400 cases a week, or 45%, according to the latest Defra data, and organic (counted separately from free-range) was up by 1,200 cases a week.