UK egg prices have weathered the start of 2019 without a serious setback, despite record levels of production in the run up to Christmas.

Although wholesale prices dipped at the start of the year, they recovered quickly and in late March were only a few pence down on their peak pre-Christmas levels.

UK egg production had already passed a new milestone in the run-up to Christmas, as weekly output exceeded 600,000 cases a week for the first time.

Latest figures from Defra put total egg output in the last quarter of 2018 at an average of 608,000 cases a week, compared with 579,000 in the same quarter of 2017, a year-on-year rise of 5%.

According to industry estimates, the total size of the laying flock peaked before Christmas at up to 40 million birds, with many new flocks coming into lay and boosted further by older birds retained to benefit from the seasonal market.

Many of these older birds have now departed, and the size of the first year laying flock in estimated to be down to around 38 million, but this still represents a record level.

At the Central Egg Agency, wholesale prices have lost only about 3-5p/doz overall on colony since before Christmas, while free range is down some 5p on the two larger sizes, and unchanged on Mediums.

“There’s been a good demand from all sectors, wholesale, processing, with retails very good,” said CEA’s Andy Crossland.

“There’s been a good run into Pancake Day and beyond, and the market is still quite tight.

“Europe’s been reasonably firm as well, so imports have been similar in price. It’s all helped to keep→ things pretty positive.”

The view from CEA was that the market would get through to Easter in reasonable shape.

With a lot of new builds coming on stream throughout the year, the longer-term outlook was uncertain.