DEMAND is holding up for the UK’s egg market, but there are fears that prices – at least for colony – could slip as supermarket sales normalise and Easter passes.

Across Europe, colony egg surpluses are beginning to emerge as the closure of the foodservice sector and drop in tourism starts to bite.

The past few weeks have seen unprecedented sales of eggs as shoppers stockpiled produce ahead of the coronavirus lockdown in late March.

UK retail sales of eggs in the 12 weeks to 22 March were up 8.29%, according to analyst Kantar Worldpanel.

Surplus absorbed

That demand has kept up, according to the Central Egg Agency’s Andy Crossland, who said that supermarket requirements had absorbed much of the surplus created by the closure of foodservice outlets in the past few weeks.

And the market remained tight in the run-up to Easter, a peak period for prices in the UK market, with little wholesale trade taking place.

But there are reports of cheaper continental egg imports now coming in, with some looking to Europe to meet demand.

“There’s some concern from Spanish producers as there will be 10 million tourists a week missing,” Mr Crossland said.

Further north, Dutch and Belgian producer prices for colony egg are down by between 5-10% week-on-week.

Egg marketers there said the loss of foodservice had hit prices hard, with fewer supermarket outlets able to take colony egg.

‘On fire’

One British colony egg farmer who supplies smaller retailers said sales had been “on fire” in the past few weeks, with demand from farm shops and corner stores particularly strong.

“Shoppers couldn’t get eggs in the supermarket, so were looking to smaller retailers,” he said. Sales had been quadruple normal levels one week and remained strong, with next week’s orders already covering production.

But beyond Easter, there was less certainty over how prices would hold up as supermarket trading returned to normal levels, he added.

Low-path AI

One opposing influence on the UK market is recent house depletions because of low-path avian influenza. These are thought to have tightened the market somewhat, though as a non-notifiable disease it is difficult to get exact numbers.

More than a million birds have been culled on the island of Ireland alone, it is understood, with cases of the disease also confirmed on Scottish egg farms.