THE EGG trade has slumped further into the doldrums in the closing days of lockdown.
Wholesale prices for both free-range and colony have backtracked again in recent weeks.
All eyes are now focused on 17 May when hotels and other breakfast venues, in particular, can admit customers once again.
This time, free-range wholesale prices were hit hardest across all sizes, dropping by up to 20p/doz over the past month.
Average prices for Large free-range are back to their lowest level since the depressed market of early summer 2019 (see chart).
Colony prices have also tumbled again, by around 10p/ doz or more, but remain above the extreme lows of the recent post-Christmas period.
The weaker tone has also coincided with an uptick in the size of the laying flock in May, following the year-on-year rise in day-old pullet placings some five months earlier.
The coming months should see a reduction in the pressure from supplies as the laying flock contracts again during June and July.
“We are certainly over-supplied at the moment,” said Andy Crossland at the CEA. “There’s plenty of free-range being offered by various packers, and consequently, it’s competing against the colony in the wholesale market to try and move it,” he said.
“When the majority of packers are in surplus, it’s very difficult to move them from packer to packer.” Some loads were probably trading below the cost of production, he added.
However, Mr Crossland is hopeful of a better tone just around the corner.
“We need to get customers indoors before we see that, but if hotels start opening up, it will get people out and about.
“From next week, we should see some forward orders as people start to build stocks, filling the supply chain up, so there should be improvement there in the coming weeks.”