THE mayhem in the egg industry caused by spiralling costs showed no sign of abating during April.

The headlong plunge in the future UK flock size has continued for another month after pullet chick placings fell by nearly 600,000 in April compared with a year earlier.

See also: Leading egg packer warns of shortages if market does not improve

By the time these birds come into lay in September, the industry is on course to show a steep seven-month decline which is unprecedented in modern times.

With units being pulled out of production and others delaying restocking, a total of 3 million layers look set to disappear from the laying flock between February and September (see chart).

In the wake of the longer-term decline since the laying flock peaked in December 2020, the overall downturn by September could be close to 5 million layers.

Wholesale prices

However, wholesale prices have been weakening in recent weeks after hitting a high at the start of May, and it might not be until September that the cut-backs result in real shortages, according to the Central Egg Agency (CEA).

“That scenario is yet to play out,” said Andy Crossland at the CEA. “Chick placings are back, and we are expecting that we will get tight at some point.

“My own guess would be that towards the end of August or beginning of September, when we see the market lift normally, is when we are going to see the gaps occurring in production.

“It’s the middle of May, and demand is always a bit quieter, just reflecting the seasonality.”

Although the UK colony flock was shrinking all the while, there was quite a bit of free range on the CEA board, he said.

“At the moment, we are still producing too much free range for the market’s needs.”