FREE-RANGE wholesale prices are finishing the year at a 30-month high, as the second wave of coronavirus maintains strong demand for retail supplies.
Our average wholesale price index for free-range eggs has stood at 170 for the last quarter of the year; a level last reached in the Spring of 2018.
Generally, it has been a solid 12 months for the sector and rarely before have prices sustained such a high level throughout the whole year.
For colony, though, it is a different story.
Although prices peaked at the height of the first lockdown, they have slipped back since then, with just a small improvement this month from a slight pick-up in the catering sector after the end of the four-week lockdown.
From here until Christmas the wholesale trade typically marks time until the New Year, explained Andy Crossland at the CEA.
“There’s now a quieter couple of weeks, where obviously retail is busy, but everything else is winding down. Then we will see where we are for January.”
See also: Poultry feed prices continue to soar
For colony egg, he had seen a bit more activity since England came out of the last lockdown but only in some areas.
The Tier 3 wholesale market, where hospitality hasn’t opened up at all, is still very quiet.
Then in Tier 2, there has been an uplift as businesses have stocked up for this next period.
“But there’s so much uncertainty as to how long it will last. A lot of people think we will be back in lockdown come January anyway, after our Christmas excursions.
“It’s a very difficult market today, and then we’ve got Brexit at the end of the year. It’s so difficult to call; we don’t know where we’re going to be.”
One possibility is that, if the new EU relationship delays imports, UK-based processors would need British egg to meet demand which could tighten prices.
National flock peaking
Estimates based on chick placings indicate the laying flock is peaking this month and will decline into the New Year, which could put some extra strength into the market during a difficult period.
But the colony sector is set to continue its decline, with reports of two packers planning to deplete major colony egg farms permanently.