THE nascent recovery in the UK laying flock became more firmly established in January.
Day-old pullet placings in January registered the most significant year-on-year increase since August 2021, according to the latest Defra figures.
Chick numbers in the month were up by 14% compared with January last year, or nearly half a million, to 3.47m.
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Also, the three months since November have witnessed the longest sustained increase since May-July 2020, when the UK flock was approaching its all-time high.
Cumulative placings during November-January were up by 0.74 million compared with the same three months a year earlier.
Nevertheless, a lot more birds will be needed during the coming months to bring things back to the way they were.
The shortage of eggs is still acute, and despite the record wholesale prices already reached, they climbed even higher in the new year.
Prices at the Central Egg Agency (CEA) were up 15p/doz across the board during January, for both colony and free range.
“There’s not much around. There’s problems in just about every sector, whether you’re a retailer, a packer or a processor or wholesaler,” said CEA’s Andy Crossland.
“We either need demand to fall, or supplies to rise. And you can’t see either at the moment.”
There was the possibility that demand would fall post-Easter into summer in the usual way, he said, but the way food inflation was at the moment, eggs would probably remain in demand as a more affordable option.
“This time around we are so far short, and Europe’s so far short, I don’t think we’ll end up in a surplus situation as such.
“Some questions have got to be asked whether we should be rehousing colony, or relying on conversion to barn, or on new builds in free range, and all of it takes time. The birds aren’t available anyway at the moment.