Wholesale egg prices have finally stirred a little after sitting in the doldrums all summer.

Much later than usual, there has been an autumn pick-up in wholesale prices, but a somewhat muted one.

See also: Egg imports double in first 8 months of this year

With free-range eggs still in short supply and already expensive, there is little scope for wholesale to go much higher.

The small upturn has now brought them back close to their record high, reached during February-May this year.

For colony, which has been beleaguered by cheaper imports since the Spring, prices are still struggling to move forward.

‘Steady’

Large have gained around 5p/doz over the past month, but Mediums have lost about 5p/doz.

“Things are pretty steady, but imports have kept the market in check,” said Andy Crossland at CEA.

“There’s not a great deal of availability from UK packers, and there’s still a clamour for free-range producers, but prices are not moving on.

National flock size

“We normally see a lift in early September, which we didn’t really see this time around,” said Mr Crossland.

Meanwhile, the recovery in the UK laying flock has started to run out of steam in the last few months.

The rise in day-old pullet placings, which began last October, heralded a sustained increase in the laying flock starting this March.

Between then and now, the number of birds in their first 52 weeks of lay is estimated to have risen by 2.4m.

However, projecting forward the latest placings to point-of-lay indicates this rise will now tail off, with the UK flock only likely to gain an additional 200,000 or so birds by February.

Profitability

Profitability in terms of egg margin over feed has increased sharply for free-range egg producers.

There has been a substantial increase in average producer prices, from around 100p/doz in the second quarter of last year to 150p/doz in the third quarter, according to Defra.

At the same time, our basic layers’ ration has dropped by £100/ tonne.

This means that our egg vs feed ratio has hit a seven-year high of 0.53, from a low of 0.25 in May last year. However, that still leaves the sharp increase in overhead costs to factor into the equation.