The egg trade has moved into the summer season in a healthy state, helped by stable demand and a brake on further expansion.

After their strong recovery since March 2023, day-old pullet placings have levelled off since the start of October last year.

See also: Feed prices jump after months of lower prices

As a result, the number of birds coming into lay topped off in March, and is unlikely to show any further growth until August at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the trade has avoided the start of a seasonal dip, reports the Central Egg Agency, with the chillier conditions through most of May keeping demand more buoyant.

The next big test is the start of the school holidays, but things are likely to take a steady course, believes Andy Crossland at the CEA.

School holidays

“With the start of the school holidays, I still think it’s going to move along in much the same vein,” said Mr Crossland.

“There’s very little UK stuff available at the minute,” he said. “We are starting to see a bit of free range, with one or two little parcels around. Colony in the main is still pretty tight.”

Wholesale prices in June had followed through at  the same levels as in May for both sectors.

For now, most of the wholesale buying was coming from either Poland Spain at the moment, he added.

Wholesale

Moving through the summer, he expected free-range flocks to come and go, with any temporary surpluses shifting to packers with shortfalls, helping to “keep things reasonably tidy”.

“On the colony front, there’s not that much in the UK these days to be really worried about.”

Dominating the trade in the next 18 months, until the end of 2025, will be the transition to free range in the major supermarkets.

“There’s certainly plans for colony birds to come out, and there are more free range going in, although the colony will probably go out quicker than the free range going in.

It’s going to be a strange year next year with the transfer from one to the other.”

There could be a late rush to switch colony units to barn production as the ‘entry-level’ welfare egg, “but a lot will depend on what the retailers want.”